On a scorching afternoon in the San Fernando Valley, four actresses arrive at a casting office to audition for the part of the “older woman” in a sordid sitcom about a May-December romance. They include Broadway diva Margo Jane Marsden (Carolyn Hennessy); former sitcom co-stars Berlinda Reid (Vicki Lewis) and Teri Valentine (Teresa Ganzel); and housekeeper-turned-reality-star Desiree White (Daniele Gaither).
Thinking at first that she’s a shoo-in for the role, Margo is appalled that she is being forced to audition with actors she considers her inferiors. Berlinda, who has spent the last 20 years blaming her former co-star for her subsequent failures and addictions, is equally aghast to find herself face-to-face once more with the bubbly, seemingly innocuous Teri. And the hot-headed, no-nonsense Desiree has no acting experience at all, a fact Margo finds especially galling. They’re all shepherded by a young, smarmy casting assistant (Paul Iacono) who is tasked with keeping their titanic egos in check.
Each actress is desperate to get the part for a different reason. Margo is turning to television because she can no longer remember her lines onstage. Teri needs another hit to bring in a younger audience (and to help her market her line of health and beauty products on QVC). Berlinda just needs the work, having spent the past two decades in and out of rehab while making a public embarrassment of herself. Likewise, Desiree is seeking employment, her reality show having been cancelled due to her family’s refusal to continue airing their dirty laundry on national television.
STan Zimmerman and Christian McLaughlin’s play is packed with nasty laughs and knowing industry jabs, and it all works wonderfully well, as delivered by a game and capable cast. Hennessy, a familiar face to fans of True Blood, is a riot as the imperious Margo. Ganzel sends up her own ‘80s goofy blonde image to a tee, and Lewis is all exposed nerves as the down-on-her-luck Berlinda. Gaither does a wonderfully vicious parody of those awful “real housewives” (and I’m thinking NeNe in particular, since her character’s cancelled show is called “Cray-Cray for Desiree”). Iocano is also fun as the potentially clichéd, fluttery assistant who’s actually got a trick of his own up his sleeve.
Zimmerman’s direction is fast and furious, ideal for a piece like this, and the one-liners just keep flying, most of them hitting their intended targets. No subject is safe — social media, Netflix series, reality television, the challenges of growing old in Hollywood and the general vapidity of the industry itself. There’s a twist near the end that could have been awkward, but the writers work it in rather well, bringing the show to a satisfying conclusion.
Meet & Greet plays various days and times through June 28 at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Check the schedule for reservations and information.