"I,Vermin, A Hollywood Success Story" is the "Boogie Nights" for the cockroach enthusiast in all of us. It's a traditional tale of love and redemption from the perspective of a man raised by kindly insects. Although the play features a number of engaging performances (most notably by Carole Healey and John Morgan), "I, Vermin" gets off to a slow start. In the second half of the show, writers Philip Kaplan and Stephanie Walter Williams avoid the more obvious targets of Hollywood satire (ambitious starlets, power-mad agents), for a few truly funny scenes about the reality TV genre and an adopted son's visit with his parents.
As Hollywood up-and-comer, Aldo Natz, actor Jeremy Rabb doesn't wear a costume or parade around on all fours, but he frequently refers to the teachings of the wise roach elders and makes odd "clicking" noises. If anyone finds Natz's background unsavory, they don't let it get in the way of feeding their own ambitions. His unique upbringing is merely a novelty to Natz's agent, Penny Nimwell (Healey), like celebrity parents or a career in country music. Natz meets and quickly falls in love with a stripper, Lana Chartruse (Sorrel Tomlinson) who loves her husband deeply, but uses his connections and influence to boost her career. Lana's hunger for fame leaves her husband vulnerable to his scheming agent who wants Natz for herself. Her plans backfire, but Aldo eventually renounces his innocence and integrity to become a Hollywood player.
The actors in "I, Vermin" are really given a chance to shine in a scene, ably directed by Chris Clavelli, that mixes the judicial system, a game show and clueless celebrity judges. Morgan is hilarious as the too-tanned host who can't break away from his TV persona. Healey is also consistently good throughout the show, but her portrayal of Natz's mother marks the most memorable moment of the evening.
"I, Vermin" does cover some well-traveled territory in Hollywood satire, but there are some fresh elements that make a play about a boy raised with roaches as palatable as possible.