Reviewed by Patrick Wood
[See also: Aaron Riccio's review]
Tell an Entourage-obsessed actor/waiter to write a play inspired by Gore Vidal’s famous quote “whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies” and you might end up with something like Nemesis, a new production that struggles to make adequate use of its 80-minute running time. The concept—given two actors/friends, the hardworking, intense one meets mounting failures as his lazier, better-looking counterpart flies to A-list heights—easily engages and speaks to very real issues plaguing aspiring entertainers from coast to coast. But, as realized by Michael Buckley, the star and writer, the play seems too intent on making insider observations on acting and celebrity culture to allow its half-baked themes to rise to any fresh insight.
Buckley plays Dan as the epitome of the struggling actor destined for disappointment. Entitled, whiny, blindly optimistic, and too self-involved to examine the deficits in his own work, Dan can be a hard pill to swallow. Unfortunately, Buckley’s visible lack of confidence and proclivity to stumble over his own lines don’t help matters. Will Poston, crafting his performance with a cookie cutter from the same set that gave us Entourage’s Vincent Chase, capably portrays a handsome, ex-high school football star who stumbles into fame and doesn’t quite know what to do with it. While both actors strive to grandly entertain—addressing the audience directly in monologues, dancing around in Top Gun flight suits, often portraying high-school versions of their characters, and, in the climax, engaging in a full-on bare-knuckle brawl—they seem most at home in the play’s grounded early scenes, as commercial and off-Broadway actors still making their bread and butter in the food industry.
Some of Nemesis’s best lines spring from shrewd observations on working at a restaurant. “You know those commercials that said ‘No one wants to grow up to be a junkie?’” Dan asks the audience. “Well, more people want to grow up to be junkies than waiters.” Buckley’s comments on Los Angeles and celebrity, and his tired jabs at yoga, soy milkshakes, and extravagant philanthropy, are far less lively.
The production also looks best at the pre-Hollywood level, when director/designer Chad Brinkman isn’t prominently projecting live video of the performance onstage. These clips and their pointless special effects distract more than enhance, and pre-taped segments where Eric pontificates about fame on Entertainment Tonight would have better served the production as audio bytes, where poor production values would not have so obviously marred their credibility. Perhaps, one day Buckley will gain the life experience to eviscerate Hollywood culture with the same shrewd insights he offers on the lives of those in the food service industry. Unfortunately, I don’t Nemesis will be the vehicle to bring him to that longed-for destination.
Nemesis (1hr 20min, no intermission)
Shetler Studios (244 West 54th Street)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $18.00
Performances (through 10/12): Tues. & Sat. @ 2 | Wed. - Sun. @ 8
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.