Theatrix is dedicated to developing and producing new works by emerging playwrights. In Slap'Em Down, based on a real event, Jefferson Arca, an actor, writes convincingly about the world he knows so well. It's a fascinating study of the desperate underside of our business, and the costs actors are willing to pay to obtain and keep a job.
Members of a Cirque de Soleil-type comedy troupe, including three Germans and three Americans, are performing a show called "Over the Top" in New York. There is a great deal of distrust between the Germans and Americans, which has lately been intensified by rumors that some of the actors are about to be let go before the show moves to Las Vegas.
The German company manager, Lutz (Tony Hale), has just announced a special guest in the audience - Prince Rainier of Monaco - who has expressed interest in hiring the company to perform in Monte Carlo. The actors' desire to impress the Prince adds to the already highly charged backstage tension.
The show goes along well enough, until the comedian, Jim (Bill Migliore), makes a joke inferring that one of the audience members - Prince Rainier's son, Prince Albert - is gay. The angry Rainier slaps Jim, who falls on his rump as the act ends. Angry and insulted, Jim vows to sue the Prince for half a million dollars, a lawsuit that would destroy all chances of the Monte Carlo job. Jim, who has reached a breaking point, is ready to take the money and get out of the business, seemingly unconcerned about his colleagues. The other actors, especially Jim's long-time comedy partner Charlie (Jimmi Simpson), feel totally betrayed by Jim's actions.
The acting was of a very high caliber, with four of the actors required to use German accents.
Bill Migliore gave an exceptionally compelling performance as the conflicted Jim. Thomas C. Dunn was totally convincing as the arrogant Frank, who detests Americans, especially Jim. His German accent was totally believable. Addie Johnson was quite touching as the young and naive Claudia, who is in love with the gay Jim and is convinced their one-night stand is true love. Jenifer Krater gave humility to the gorgeous but cold Katrina, who seems only interested in finding a wealthy man. Jimmi Simpson was appealing as the idealistic Charlie, who loves the unresponsive Katrina. Karen Samuelson's tough-talking Julie revealed a lonely girl who can't be alone with herself. Tony Hale's slimy, evasive Lutz was right on the mark.
Director Ted Sluberski's collaborative directing style was ideal for showcasing his talented cast.
Eric Zoback's brightly colored sets contributed to the circus-like atmosphere, and the dressing-room set had an authentic, cluttered ambience. Peter Petrino's lighting and Carrie Hash's effective costumes complemented each other well. 1970s punk rock music played just a tad too loud in the pre-show helped add to the general edginess of the piece.
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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern