Monday, October 06, 2008


Nemesis, a new play by Michael Buckley about two friends-cum-actors-cum-rivals isn't nearly as clever as Itamar Moses's recent introspective look at jealousy, The Four of Us. This is both a boon and a curse: on the one hand, the simple structure (scenes given weight by explanatory and depricating monologues) allows the actors to be brutally honest about their insecurities and travails. On the other, the show doesn't develop very much beyond our first impressions: Dan (Buckley) is a whiner, so self-obsessed that he can't see that (unfortunately) talent isn't always what deserves recognition, and Eric (Will Poston) is simply relaxed and casual, even when he tells the audience that he's a mess. The result is an unglamourously extended episode of Entourage, with Eric abruptly seeking to be more than the highest-grossing actor in "Agent Orange" (he wants to play a "retard," and not in Tropic Thunder's satirical sense) and Dan flying out to Hollywood to provide (and recieve) moral support after his days on the rural touring circuit turn his Romeo into a drunk.

The actors are both charming, but neither is especially truthful: a real shame, especially since it's a play about actors, featuring (by necessity) actors, one of whom wrote the play. Playing on Hollywood stereotypes is, by now, a stereotype itself, and Buckley's jokes would be better if they were fresh ("hacktor" is pretty weak) or if they weren't so grimly prescient (2:1 that the CW really does try to make a "Top Gun" television series). In fairness to the shallow world Nemesis so playfully indulges in, charm does go a long way. Less so, however, when director Chad M. Brinkman tries to dress it up as "multimedia" (the actors are projected, as in a hall of mirrors, onto a screen behind them), or when Qui Nguyen's always entertaining fight choreography is used to simulate actual drama.

By keeping the characters in seperate monologues for so long, and belaboring their careers from high school through Hollywood, Buckley stretches his material far too thin. Beyond a jealousy that is only momentarily addressed head-on, there are no obstacles or actions, just long stretches of smilingly presented plot. If there is a real nemesis in Nemesis, it is the playwright on the actor, slyly limiting his characters without ever giving them a chance to strike back.

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