Egomaniacal artists, an autocratic director, demanding clients,
second-guessing technicians and naive wannabes. A recipe for artistic
Probably, but no one ever confused filming food commercials with
art. No one, that is, except those involved in the process.
Laguna Playhouse audiences will get an up-close-and-personal look
at these fascinating characters next weekend in the West Coast
premiere of Rob Ackerman’s play “Tabletop.” It’s described as a
frenzied comedy taking place in the wild and profane world of a
television food commercial film studio.
Although it’s been staged only once, in New York, “Tabletop” comes
with some pretty glowing reports. The New York Times commented that
the play “encompasses idealism, compromise and illusion in an all too
real world of mass manipulation.” The New York Post went even
further, declaring it to be “the best new American play in quite a
Andrew Barnicle, artistic director of the playhouse, is staging
this final production of Laguna’s 2003-04 season, which will offer
previews Tuesday through Friday before its grand opening Saturday.
The cast will include just one familiar figure -- Kevin Symons,
making his fourth appearance here following his work in “Spinning
Into Butter,” “Rounding Third” and “The Constant Wife.”
The temperamental and demanding producer/director/studio owner
will be played by Jeff Meek who, while he’ll be making his Laguna
debut, already is familiar to local playgoers who saw “A Streetcar
Named Desire” at South Coast Repertory or “Coriolanus” at UC Irvine.
Others in the “Tabletop” cast are Al Espinosa, Tony Jones, Andrea
Odinov and Sal Viscuso. Dwight Richard Odle is designing the set with
lighting by Paulie Jenkins and sound design by David Edwards, all
resident designers at the playhouse.
Playwright Ackerman is quite familiar with the world he satirizes
in “Tabletop.” For the past 15 years, he’s worked as a prop master
for movies, commercials and TV’s “Saturday Night Live.” His first
play, “Origin of the Species,” became an award-winning independent
film starring Amanda Peet.
“Tabletop” earned the 2001 Drama Desk Award for best ensemble
performance in its New York premiere. Ackerman currently is writing
the screenplay for “Tabletop” and has done two others, “The Last
Word,” produced this year, and “Bait and Tackle” since then.
Laguna’s “Tabletop” will be on stage Tuesdays through Fridays at 8
p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. until
June 27, with reservations being taken at (949) 497-2787. The play
contains adult language and themes.