Completely funny — ‘Abridged’ format isn’t short on laughs in ‘Hollywood’ show

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jamie Nelson, left, and Justin Smith demonstrate an axiom of Hollywood — show it, don’t say it —via a silent movie sketch in “Completely Hollywood (abridged).”

Redoubt Reporter

Summer ’tis the season for Hollywood blockbusters.

The shell-shocking spectacle! The deafeningly familiar score (because you’ve heard basically the same songs in previous years’ crop of summer movies)! The broad-brush script! The special effects (that may or may not have any relevancy to the plot)! The flat-and-transparent-as-Visqueen characters! The long lines! The expensive treats! All for a story that’s either a blatant remake of an older movie, a repurposing of another medium (a la the comic book genre) or a combination of the plots of two previous movies.

Does “Green Hornet” seem familiar? That’s because it’s “Batman” and “Step Brothers” rolled into one. Getting a sense of déjà vu from the trailers for “Burlesque?” You must have seen “Chicago” and “Coyote Ugly.” Having trouble keeping “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” straight? It’s no wonder, since it’s just a combination of “Pirates” I, II and III, plus “The Little Mermaid.”

Fear not, fickle film fans. This weekend and next, Triumvirate Theatre offers a solution — 186 of Hollywood’s greatest* films (*actual greatness may vary) for the price of one, with a production of “Completely Hollywood (abridged).”

The show, written by Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor and Dominic Conti, applies the widely popular abridged comedy format, used to condense and lampoon everything from the complete works of Shakespeare to American history and even the Bible, to Hollywood movies.

Of the show’s three performers — Josh Ball, Justin Smith and Jamie Nelson — Ball and Smith performed “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” through Triumvirate years ago when they were still attending Nikiski High School. Now back from college, Ball with a degree in theater and Smith studying film, they wanted to recapture the fun they had with the “Shakespeare” show, and recruited veteran local actor Nelson to round out the cast.

“I think literally the day after ‘Shakespeare’ was over we were like, ‘Man, let’s just do this and make this our job and take this on tour.’ Ever since then I’ve wanted to continue to do shows like this,” Ball said. “When I saw the ‘Completely Hollywood’ done in Phoenix, I really, really liked it and, being that we’re all a movie-going, movie-loving, artistic group, I figured that was probably the most appropriate of the (abridged) scripts for us to do.”

The show takes a tour de farce of Hollywood’s trade secrets, shortcuts and clichés. Ball, Smith and Nelson, playing caricatured versions of the show’s authors, explain for the audience the 12 critical components of Hollywood moviemaking.

Lesson One we’ve already visited (and revisited) — every new movie is a combination of two old movies. That’s a handy conceit to fall back on when crippled by a lack of originality. New ideas? Who needs ’em? Just fish out two movie ticket stubs from under a car seat and get filming the next new comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Winona Ryder, “Doctor Dolittle Women,” or a German musical set aboard a submarine, “Das Showboat!”

Other tips of the trade: Unforgettable movies need unforgettable images, such as the super slow-motion run of “Chariots of Fire,” the arms-flung-wide pose of “Titanic,” and the similar — but kneeling — pose of the “Shawshank Shot.”

Need more stock pretentiousness to boost blockbuster potential? Keep in mind that every Hollywood movie must be summed up in a single tag line: “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dork,” or, um, “Elderly Superheroes?”

The latter has Ball and Smith duking it out as a stoved-up Flash and arthritic

The show takes more of a sketch comedy approach than a narrative tale, requiring the actors to stay on their toes, and in various costumes.

Hulk.

Riffing on 186 classic Hollywood films presents a lot of footage to cover in the show’s two-hour run time. Ball, Nelson and Smith maintain quick pacing in flowing between addressing the audience, picking on each other and breaking into sketches to play out some of the longer bits of humor. In Act Two the three decide to stage their own film —following the 12 rules of Hollywood, of course — but overall the show is more comedy review than narrative tale.

That relaxed style is the fun of performing it, they said.

“The audience interaction that is not only allowed, but required, in these shows is so much fun and it really breathes life into the show,” Ball said. “The audience can just relax because immediately, from the get-go we set it up as we know you’re here, we’re not going to pretend like you’re not here. I think that allows for maybe the not-so-comfortable theater-goer to just relax and think, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’”

This version of the “abridged” format has a more standup, sketch-comedy feel than “Shakespeare” did, which was written by actual Shakespearean scholars, and the subject matter and language is more familiar than the works of the Bard.

“I think that’s what makes it pretty appealing to a wide audience,” Smith said. “There’s this kind of a stigma for a lot of people, like, ‘I don’t want to go see a play. They’re stuffy and long with soliloquies or whatever.’ But this is just like nonstop stuff going on. There’s nothing to grasp beyond the conversational sort of thing that we like to see in our entertainment.”

The script allows for, and even encourages, each troupe to make it their own,

Nelson, Smith and Josh Ball pose as “Darcy’s Angels,” a mash-up of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Charlie’s Angels,” proving that all Hollywood movies are a combination of two previous movies.

adding updated movie references and tweaking some of the bits to suit each trio of actors.

“You’re playing characters but it’s like it’s a version of yourself. (The authors) based the characters on themselves and their tendencies, and we slip in a little of our own personalities,” Smith said. “I like how we’ve made it our own, and the relationship our characters have on stage. There’s some consistency, like I’m the guy that always has to wear a dress. And I like being able to be self-deprecating,” Smith said.

“And we like allowing him to be self-deprecating,” Ball added.

“Completely Hollywood (abridged)” will be performed at 8 p.m. this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $15, available at the door and in advance from the Triumvirate Bookstore. The show runs about two hours, and Ball, Nelson and Smith intend to enjoy every minute of it.

“It just really goes. I would hope that if we’re having such a good time and it flies by for us, then an audience member isn’t going to be looking at his watch going, ‘Uh, when is this going to be over?’ This is one of those shows where I look at the clock and I’m like, ‘Wow, we’ve been here for two hours?’ If we have so much fun picking on ourselves and picking on each other, I think the audience will be able to sit and enjoy watching that, too,” Ball said.

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