Walk into Ideal Glass Gallery and you will be welcomed to a boutique of kitsch, courtesy of Los Angeles. The piece that is performed amidst all of this seemingly meaningless junk is Saint Hollywood, written by Willard Morgan and Jerrold Ziman and directed by Jim Milton. Saint Hollywood is one-part rock concert, one-part play, and one part stand-up comedy act. For fans of the live comic genre, it is a delightful one-man show about the perils and pitfalls of living and trying to make it as a performer in LA. Willard Morgon tells a metarealistic tale of the crazy, unbelievable events that occur along his journey to the stage for a benefit for colo-rectal cancer, being held for a slew of Hollywood big wigs. Morgan takes us through his experiences in a way reminiscent of 2008's Broadway musical Passing Strange. Like Stew, Passing Strange's creator and performance narrator, Morgan, uses a fourth-wall breaking audience address format, enhanced by the inclusion of expositionary as well as novelty songs. Unlike the Broadway piece, however, Morgan does not rely on an ensemble of players to embody all those he encounters. Rather, Morgan plays all of the roles himself. He even steps in and out of the action to play a secondary version of himself, one who can look upon the play's events from the outside and provide commentary.
There are many moments of great humor in this performance. Morgan is charming in the role and makes the audience root for his success. The songs are catchy and the piece benefits greatly from the surrounding projections on the three stage walls. The background film is both a supplementary realistic picture of the LA setting and an experimental and abstract reflection of each scene's larger issue or theme.
The set is absolutely superb, filling all of the theater space with any and every element of random clutter you can imagine. The message here is clear: one can fill his/her life with tons of stuff and still never be complete or fulfilled. The lighting accents this absurd reality, consistently painting with a palette of blues and pinks. We are both faced with the cruel reality of being an aspiring performer in Hollywood and subtly reminded that this, too, like much of LA and the future fame and fortune it will provide, is a fantasy.
Morgan is an enjoyable comedian, though at times the comedy sets spliced in throughout the piece seem too long and act to distance the viewer from the overall narrative. He does a magnificent job with each one of the accents he adopts; each character has a distinct voice and a unique characterization. The piece is a kind of self-indulgent fun, occasionally veering too much toward the former, but regularly balanced out by the latter.
Morgan displays how truly multi-talented he is, doing everything from hammy jokes to playing the harmonica to juggling. There is a powerful statement about the emptiness of the search for fame hidden beneath all of these comic trappings. It is a profound LA tale, though elements may be lost on some New York spectators. For anyone who is a fan of stand-up, or who is a fellow "LA survivor," this is the show to see. It is funny and compelling and an all-around good time.