Act Two takes place in the same bedroom. Now the couple is returning from the Academy Awards. In a truly remarkable scene -- built in part on our misunderstanding of what has transpired in the interim -- this glamorous pair struggle against their particular version of the eternal pressures that want to explode all marriages. A title like Mr. & Mrs. Hollywood prepares us for celebrity, not universality. But playwright/director O'Brien somehow manages to give us both. This husband and wife -- though remaining glitterati of the first magnitude -- also pull us into their personal griefs, resentments, failures and aspirations.
Flawless performances by Karl Lengel and the lovely Ashley Nolan put this fascinating drama (soon to be published in Smith and Krauss' The Best Plays of 2003) at the top of the "don't miss" list.
Running in repertory with Mr. & Mrs. Hollywood, as the featured productions in Southern Rep's New Play Festival, is Jim Fitzmorris' The Visitation. Fitzmorris -- who grew up as a member of the political clan that produced the renowned Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris -- has been treating local audiences to inside glimpses of the powers-that-be over the last several years. The Visitation is, in fact, the final installment of a quartet of plays about Louisiana politics. While the previous plays in the series are noteworthy for their hard-edged, cold-eyed, somewhat cynical take on the electoral process, The Visitation strikes a softer, more elegiac note. It is a backward glance at the dynasty's idealistic beginnings. Three buddies return from the Korean War and go into law practice together. Almost on a lark, they decide to take on the system -- though they seem to have an amazingly sophisticated sense of how it all works right from the jump. Woven into the political shenanigans are several sub-plots: one concerns a marriage that grows into a true partnership; the other, a maid who is falsely accused of theft.
The play unfolds in a well-crafted presentational style. The characters often give us background that links the scenes in straightforward storytelling narratives. There are also ghost stories, told to kids on Halloween by each of the three buddies. These are amusing, and meant to shed light on the characters and their situations -- though, by the third one, we have perhaps gotten our fill.
Under J. Daniel Stanley's direction, Gavin Mahlie, Robert Pavlovich, Dane Rhodes, Amy Alvarez and Karen Kaia Livers turn in convincing performances. Playwright Fitzmorris, in this amusing, nostalgia-tinged prequel, shows us the lighter, human side of political skullduggery. God knows we can use it.