Reviewed by Leonard Jacobs
Presented by Jeffrey Finn Productions at the 45 Bleecker, 45 Bleecker St., NYC. Opened Oct. 25 for an open run.
Come on down! If you're breathing, conscious, and eager to win on a game show, you may love "Game Show," a hybrid theatrical experience one might best describe as a quasi-interactive quasi-play. In a season beset by more interactivity than Playstation 2, "Game Show" is a species unto itself.
First, and most memorable, is James Youmans' set, a handsome, all-too-real television studio. There, three sets of four contestants are cajoled from the audience to podiums where Troy Richards—a mildly contemptuous Michael McGrath—exudes Regis-like smarm while asking medium-skill questions "live" on television. Points are meted, one-liners vetted, and the winner of each set advances to a bonus round where a DVD player (or other big-ticket item) awaits. Interspersed throughout is the play, by Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton, about networking networkers networking at the network, aching, one and all, for that sex/power mélange that game shows historically embody.
Ellen Ryan, played deliciously by Cheryl Stern, is the fearsome, kinetic, backstabbing producer. Perhaps she's involved with Steve Fox, the warm-up man played by Jeb Brown, perhaps not. Perhaps they'll depose Richards, ruling the "Game Show" roost, perhaps not. Meanwhile, Johnny Wilderman, played by Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone, is the earnest, courageous sort that every play of intrigue needs. Too bad the cameramen, Joe (played by Joel Blum) and Gerry (Brandon Williams) haven't more to do—they could have been the techie versions of Waldorf and Statler from "The Muppets"—but they're fun. Another character, played by Dana Lynn Mauro, holds the key to the plot I won't reveal.
Directed by Mark Waldrop, the piece is a delicate blurring of real and fake—very "Survivor" in its surreality—and the audience loved it. I was more resistant; I found the bonus round more suspenseful than the play. But then again, Troy didn't choose me to be a contestant.