Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
I Was Tom Cruise doesn't feature classy writing, and it doesn't attempt a potent plot. Why should it? It has a Tom Cruise lookalike (and a Kate Holmes, Joaquin Phoenix, and Oliver Platt). That's vehicle enough, right? Alexander Poe's script and well-intentioned direction (with Joseph Varca) is just there for the ride. But the play itself is a slow ride without Jeff Berg (Tom) onstage, and even then it's still pretty turgid. It points out the shallowness but doesn't poke fun at it; that makes I Was Tom Cruise little better than the real thing.
Berg gets some mileage from the Twilight Zone-ish premise that Tom Cruise is just a sack of flesh inhabited by luckless saps (ala Face/Off): a means to polarize the Scientologist movement. Though he doesn't change outwardly, Berg presents some subtle differences (especially toward the end) between Tom, the "original" Cruise (cockily ethereal) and Frank, the "replacement" Cruise (insecure and lonely). Too bad every other character is scenery. Gideon Banner (Frank), acts like a one-dimensional Seth Myers (who is already one-dimensional), and Victoria Haynes (Frank's wife, Paula) just goes increasingly over the top. The rest of the large ensemble cast--for lack of anything better to do?--plays it even bigger: the show becomes a parody not just of pop culture, but itself.
Is it funny to watch people make fun of Tom Cruise? Sure. But when you pay money to watch people make fun of Tom Cruise, and you sit in a cramped seat for ninety minutes, and you leave the theater giggling a little, perhaps, but otherwise completely unaffected--who is the joke on?
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.