Neither Saints Nor Winners

The brightly colored wall of the Ideal Glass Gallery, covered in artfully arranged graffiti and clothing, announces that you have reached the home of Saint Hollywood . Unfortunately for them, this eye-catching artwork is the most dynamic part of this deeply flawed show. The strong visual representations on the walls outside and inside the theater are beautiful, but this creative cacophony does not translate to the plot or characters that comprise the piece. To say that Saint Hollywood lacks a plot is both true and misleading. Plot is not necessary for my enjoyment of a show, as sometimes concepts are so powerful that they can form a coherent piece of theater. There is a story in this play, as we follow Willard Morgan on a journey through a cast of characters that populate Hollywood. Rather the problem is that the plot does not support the character. In other words, there is no unifying frame for the piece. We watch Morgan’s failing comedy routines, but we do not have any introduction to him that tells us how we are supposed to feel about this failure.

This problem continues as Morgan takes on the various other characters whose surreal pictures adorn the sides of the theater. Besides the fact that several of these characters seem to be little more than ethnic and gender stereotypes, there is an uneven balance between their stories and Morgan’s. After seeing the video footage that ends the show, I believe that this structure was meant to simulate Morgan’s experience of meeting these individuals. Yet this effect is lost in a one man show, where we never see Morgan seeing these people. They appear, but their function is unclear. And the undercurrents of rascism and misogyny possibly read into a white man playing some of these characters are not considered. The characters are not treated with kindness by their actor, and therefore it is difficult to understand how we are supposed to feel towards them.

Perhaps this is the danger in creating a musical around the idea of a comedian who can’t tell a joke. And a modern musical it is, complete with a live DJ on stage. Unfortunately, just as the video design by Alex Koch and Lucie Jeesun Lee is beautiful but unable to save the show, the DJ’s cutting is a great concept left hanging by unmemorable songs. It's too bad, as the two female cast members, Shannon Antalan and Zoe Rosario, have good voices. These two women are used mostly as decoration, and I am once again puzzled as to their function in the show as a whole.

The trope of great concepts poorly realized seems to be the trademark of Saint Hollywood . At the end of the show, Morgan says that he spends most of his life between the set-up and the punchline. This gap is exactly what is wrong with the show. It needs to decide what it wants to be. I don’t even know how to make suggestions for improvement, because in many ways the whole conceit of the piece is just that, conceited. There is no way to connect with this protagonist, and I’m not sure why we’re watching a show about him. I hope that this is something that Saint Hollywood figures out so that they can improve. In the meantime, look at the beautiful artwork, but then keep on walking.

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