Anton in Show Business, an hilarious, gender bending evening of unmitigated fun, now playing at the Hudson Theatres, boasts an accomplished, high caliber, all-female cast that doesn’t just break the fourth wall, but shatters it, demolishes it. Holly (Gillian Shure), a television actress with lazy diction, wants to get into the movies, but lacks the acting chops and a stage resume. Her manager wants her to get experience with Chekhov or Shakespeare. Her TV stardom is a lure that fuels a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters to be performed in San Antonio, Texas. A power unto herself, she has the clout to get her way. She can fire a director (an obnoxious male Brit) or tolerate an over-qualified Russian (both enthusiastically played by dialect expert Claudia De Vasco). She gives the boot to a tart-tongued, steamroller of a character, a stereotypical Black-woman-with-attitude (Courtney Sauls, who also plays the stage manager à la Thornton Wilder’s Our Town). Holly is a sexy, low-key tyrant who hassles the costumer and seduces the local musician/actor Ben (Marguerite Insolia), who plays Vershinin to her Masha.
After firing the preening British director, who, much to her displeasure, had abused and humiliated two auditioning actresses – struggling, been-around-forever Casey (Anzu Lawson) and enthusiastic, fragile tyro, Lisabette (Dana Pollak). Holly whimsically hires them and they fly off to old San Antone to the strains of Gene Autry singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Although it is Ms. Sauls who first breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience, it is Jesse Madera, as the character Joby, who utterly demolishes it in an extraordinary, totally unexpected way that I will not spoil by describing it. I sit here at the keyboard shaking my head and smiling at the audacity of it.
Staged under the keen direction of Nell Teare (with production design by Isabella Mack), Anton in Show Business owes much to Wilder and is exactly right. The stage is bare save for six chairs, a desk, and a big bed pushed on for a drunken, girly pajama party, truly, all that is needed.
Kudos to the cast, director and playwright for such a joyful evening of theatrical bliss. To any who read this commentary, go see this play!
Anton in Show Business runs through May 15 at The Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.