The Money Shot: Save your cash

Four actors pretend to fight behind a velvet rope. Publicity still for The Money Shot.

In The Money Shot, playwright Neil LaBute mocks obvious Hollywood targets

I started checking my watch about a half hour in. And time slowed down after that.

Supposedly, Neil LaBute’s The Money Shot is a comedy.

Set on the Hollywood terrace of an Oscar-winning lesbian actor, LaBute’s script features three movieland airheads and one bitter intellectual, who is, presumably, LaBute’s stand-in.

Karen, the homeowner, is starring in a movie opposite Steve. Karen’s career has flagged since she came out and Steve is an aging action star. Their edgy European director has suggested that they try something boundary-pushing during the sex scene they’ll be shooting the next day and, because Karen and Steve are both desperate to reestablish their careers, they are considering it.

It takes forever for LaBute to name what Karen and Steve are debating, which is a tedious tease: he has named his play The Money Shot for fuck’s sake.

Anyway, the two actors have asked their spouses to weigh in: Steve’s bimbette partner, Missy, and Karen’s wife Bev, who has a degree from Brown and isn’t about to let anybody forget it.

The first big problem with the comedy is that the targets are too easy. Karen does endless celebrity endorsements. Missy has a couple of food issues. Steve is a sexist, homophobic idiot who checks his cellphone all the time. Making jokes about these people is about as difficult as convincing Gwyneth Paltrow to have a smoothie. Very occasionally, something lands: I found it surprising and therefor funny when Steve wondered aloud if Belgium was still in Europe, for instance. But those moments are few and far between.

To make matters worse, this production, which was directed by David C. Jones, is heavy-handed. Michael Patrick Denis, who plays Steve, has a credibly dim-witted internal life going on. But, playing Karen, Kate Isaac overacts, making a meal of everything she says and indicating her character’s emotions rather than simply reacting. Lara Amelie Abadir is much more credible as Bev, but she swallows her words so, like most of the actors in this piece, she’s hard to hear at times. Vivian Tang gives a straightforward reading of Missy: that’s a good starting point, but adding another layer would have made her characterization more interesting.

Jonathan Kim’s mostly naturalistic lighting design includes one glaringly inconsistent cue in which he gives Missy a theatrical special.

On opening night, we were told that The Money Shot would run 80 minutes. It went up a little after its announced eight o’clock starting time and it didn’t end until 9:53.

THE MONEY SHOT By Neil LaBute. Directed by David C. Jones. A production of the MPO Artistic Collective. At Studio 1398 on Wednesday, May 2. Continues until May 6. 

Tickets.   

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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