In playwright Boo Killebrew's sardonic yet oddly unsatisfying comedy, the snake biting its own tail which we know as "fame" is a dark-eyed goddess that a coterie of self-absorbed acquaintances are willing to do almost everything to worship.
At the top of the popularity pyramid is sultry beauty Biz (Grace Eboigbe), who seems to be world-famous for being beautiful. She's a celebutante, appearing in rock videos and movies, and she has her thumbs in real estate and production companies. Yet she also has the sensibility of a teenage girl, and when a mentally handicapped friend from high school (Edward Tournier, sweetly dorky) invites her to his birthday party, she agrees happily — if he can cough up the $400 appearance fee.
Meanwhile, up-and-coming actor Beth (Lisa Clifton) has her eyes on the prize of superstardom, which dismays her salt-of-the-earth boyfriend (Nicholas S. Williams), who sees her drifting away from the life he wants with her. In addition, there's a shallow gay man (a nicely bitchy Brad C. Light), who starts dating a production assistant from a hit TV show and dines out on it for all he can; and there's a brittle young lady (Marja-Lewis Ryan) who has starved herself silly so she can achieve her deranged definition of beauty.
Director Elina de Santos' crisp and fast-paced staging crackles with energy, and the characters simmer with a sort of superficial amiability masking inner ruthlessness that will be all too familiar to residents of Hollywoodland. However, for all that it is a satire about people seeking the sort of fame that comes without achievement, Killebrew frankly has little new to say.
The various character portraits are colorful and vivid but essentially superficial and one-dimensional — cartoons who wear out their welcome long before the play's over. We keep waiting for the moment that will tell us what drives these folks to desire the generalized love of a crowd rather than the more sincere affection of an individual. The play's tone is ultimately snide and snarky but not nearly as funny other theatrical jibes at the business have been.
Still, Eboigbe offers a hilarious turn, charming and a little scary, as the starlet Biz. And the doomed relationship between Williams' touchingly heartsick Richard and Clifton's monstrously driven Beth is moving.
Presented by and at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Jun. 27-Aug. 3. (323) 856-8611. www.theatreofnote.com.