Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sidetracked by Sharon Michaels

By Joe Straw 

Sidetracked, written and produced by Sharon Michaels, directed by Ray A. Rochelle, is playing at the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood. 

Detective Richard Doyle (James Gleason) has a sleazy office, on the tail end of the boulevard, somewhere in tinsel town, Hollywood, Sunset, or Yucca Boulevard, you decide. He is working late one night when a dame with gorgeous “pins” steps into his office.

Dawn Lovett (don’t you love it) (Jamison Lingle) is an actress.  Aren’t they all?  She’s made enough bucks, moola, and clams to slip some business to this deceptively bright, down on his luck, scotch drinking detective. 

Miss Lovett’s legs are not the only things that unravel in this late night meeting as she meticulously turns the verbal pages of her life.   She wants Detective Doyle to find Joseph Feinstein, the father she has never known.  He is a millionaire who made his fortune with the wonder cream, “Ageless”.

At first Doyle doesn’t believe her. But Lovett whips out love letters that are like a cold hard slap to the face.  It is proof that Feinstein and her mother were lovers before they conceived those grand gams that are now laced in front of his gawking eyes.   

Doyle’s insatiable appetite is now, wet.  And Lovett slips him a hundred bucks to follow his predilection.  The click, click, click of Miss Lovett’s high heels sends an elevating message to Doyle as she saunters out of the room, into the night, and out of his life for the time being.

Later, in a cocktail lounge at Union Station, Julio Jorge Juarez (Carlos Ciurlizza), whose sexual orientation is dubious at best, is dancing to the beat of Latin music when Wanda Berlinger (Michele Bernath) and her husband Henry Berlinger (Bix Barnaba) come in for a mélange on the way to San Francisco for a science convention. They hope to confront the thieving Joseph Feinstein at that convention.

Julio lets them in on a little secret.  He whispers that his brother Juan works on the train and Feinstein is on that train. 

After a few drinks, Henry claims he is the inventor of the “Ageless” formula and he is ready to provoke Feinstein with some disturbing news.   The drug has terrible side effects, like loss of hair and bleeding from various orifices of a body that can, in fact, make a grown man cry.  

Moments later, Brett Hart (David P. Johnson) and his manager Veronica Lacey (Sondra Currie) enter the lounge.  The others recognize Hart as the “Ageless” spokesman and swarm over him.  But Miss Lacey wants everyone to know that Hart is hers and that she is heavily invested in Hart as well as Feinstein.

There is a slight problem.  Hart has not told Lacey that his contract is kaputsville and to make matters worse his hair is starting to come out in large chunks. It is an unfair situation, someone has to pay, but the slightly air headed Hart doesn't know who to blame.   He is an actor, after all, and that means something in this town, hair or no hair, brain or no brain. 

Veronica Lacey is heavily invested with Feinstein and stands to lose a lot of money when she finds out the “Ageless Cream” is a modern day snake oil with terrible side effects. And she will lose more money when she finds out that Feinstein has cancelled Hart’s contract.

Dawn Lovett suddenly appears into the lounge doing some investigating of her own.  She wants to find her father and make amends.

And then “it” happens.  A train has sidetracked and everyone is stuck in the cocktail lounge until the train gets back on track.

The very nature of a whodunit is that everyone leaves the room at one time or another and this play is no exception. And at the end of this, the bartender Julio comes back to say that Joseph Feinstein is dead.

But what good is a whodunit without a scream from a lovely young woman with “pins”? 

James Gleason as Detective Doyle was quite engaging as the sleuth seeking, womanizing, and easy going detective complete with trench coat, a notepad, and a number 2 pencil. He has a perspicacious mind and was quite amusing in his fashion.  This was a very fine job but he should make some serious threats about putting everyone away.  There should be more at stake.

Jamison Lingle as Dawn Lovett was very statuesque with some very nice “pins”.  She is a lovely actress that needs a little more to do in this role. Her flirtatious behavior was minimal at best.  She is, in fact, a successful actress but none of the other characters recognize her. And what good is a whodunit without a scream especially when she finds out that Feinstein, her father, is dead.

Carlos Ciurlizza as Julio Jorge Juarez had some nice moments but why does Julio act effeminate when it doesn’t take him anywhere?  The bartender should be more than just someone listening to other people’s problems.  Julio must be a suspect and must show that he could do the deed.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Michele Bernath as Wanda Berlinger has some nice moments but the glove scene doesn’t go anywhere.  She needs to step out of the role and become something she is not.  She too had an affair with Feinstein but hearing about his murder means little to her.  

Bix Barnaba as Henry Berlinger is a nice enough man with a typical male sleazy background but we must see that he has the ability and willingness to kill Feinstein. Barnaba’s ending was terrific.

Sondra Currie as Veronica Lacey stood around and looked pretty.  We need a lot more than this to get the job done. She is a manager and a most controlling one at that.  She wants her man and she wants what is coming to her.  This should be expressed in her character so that we can see that she might be the killer.

David P. Johnson as Brett Hart did some nice work as the pompous but friendly actor/spokesman.  But it’s too easy to just let the career go.  He must fight for his egotistical place in the world. If that means killing Feinstein in the process, so be it. Without this, he has no objective.

A lot of work went into Sharon Michaels play and it is too easy to dismiss it and move on. But to excogitate the whodunit genre, one would need to look at the characters objectives.  And once they find it they must take action to extremes.  These characters require a definitive course and their actions on that course require exaggeration.  We must see that each character is a unique living breathing murdering suspect. By the end of the play, the characters should be tearing each other’s hair out to keep from going to the gas chamber. As it stands now, none of the characters are fighting for their lives, they don’t protect their self interests and they don’t seem to care if they are going to the prison or not.  The characters should blame one another.  They should accuse the guilty and the not guilty.  It should be physical romp, with secrets pasted on all their faces.

Ray A. Rochelle does some nice things as the director.  There is an accusatory look from all of the participants when the music blares which happens on a few occasions.  It’s funny but doesn’t take us to the next moment.  Also when Detective Doyle goes over the list of suspects, the actors should not be scattered all over the stage.  We, as audience members, lose a lot when this happens.  It would be best to have the actors downstage center so that we can see the accusations fly.

The Set Design by Ray A. Rochelle was nicely done. Rikki Lugo job as the Costume Designer was marvelous.

Theater enlightens. It provides a message for those who seek that, but also provides an avenue for those who want to sit back and be entertained. Sidetracked will keep you entertained, so sit back.  

Go see it.  And take a friend who likes the whodunit genre! 

No comments:

Post a Comment