Playwright Rob Ackerman has created a hyperrealistic, real-time, "slice of life" story based on his own experience in the tabletop trade. Realism is the operative word. The script is crammed with so many film expressions, the dialogue must sound like Aramaic to the uninitiated. The hyperreality is further intensified by director Joseph Adler's long experience as a commercial director (hopefully not as a screaming meanie like Marcus) and the production background of several of the actors. Adler's staging, natural but clean, is incredibly detailed: He has six people doing simultaneous, seemingly separate tasks that must be orchestrated and timed together without anyone noticing. Adler intensifies the natural feel by holding back all conventional theatrical elements; this show has no music, no atmospheric sound effects. Lighting designer Jeff Quinn works with no obvious stage lights other than working lights used in the filming, and no one is credited with costume design for the nondescript clothing the characters wear. Add Tim Connelly's sprawling, detailed film set, and the experience feels more like watching real life than a dramatic construct.
That's the intention, and that's good, on the whole. While the direction and acting are first-rate, there's not much story here, and the proceedings sag. Ackerman tries too hard to land some points about creative integrity, selling out, and the evils of commercial advertising, but this all feels schematic. Each character seems at times to exist primarily as an example of human frailty, like the seven sins in a medieval morality tale. But that's a cavil. The attraction here is not the story; it's the skillful production and the insiders' look at the film business, a subject that holds a fascination for many.
With struggling artist friends like these: Leif Gilbertson, Brian Louis Hoffman, and Aubrey Shavonn
Written by Keith Bunin; directed by Rafael de Acha. With Kimberly Daniel, Leif Gilbertson, Brian Louis Hoffman, and Aubrey Shavonn. Presented through March 30 by the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St, Coral Gables, 305-443-5909.