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Theater Review:

There’s always excitement opening night – whether it’s a high school, college, Equity waiver or Broadway production. The atmosphere is buzzing as audience members enter holding bouquets of flowers and sending air kisses to their friends. Expectations are high and everyone is rooting for a hit. And, so it was at the Edgemar Center for the Arts for the world premiere of the comedy, Desperate Writers.

Written by Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber, the story concerns two young Hollywood writers/lovers who have been collaborating for 10 years, without ever selling a single script. Ashley (Kate Hollinshead) is about to lose her day job as a caterer and David (Chris Petschler) is not getting enough work as a freelance photographer, resulting in the imminent loss of their apartment.

As the invisible curtain rises, David is in the throes of a nightmare in which an assortment of Hollywood cartoon types are surrealistically staged by director Kay Cole. Poor Ashley and David. They got close to a deal on a script that got positive feedback from a producer the previous week but is now turned down. “We thought you said the time was right,” to which the producer replies, “Last week was the right time, not this week.” David and Ashley finally come to the realization that most producers don’t even read, with Ashely concluding that desperate times call for desperate measures. She hatches and executes a plan that would provide the time and space for three of Hollywood’s top producers to read their work. Mayhem is about to break out as an incredibly original, albeit a bit dangerous, idea is about to become a reality, manifesting itself in a slightly overwritten second act.

Under Cole’s skillful, inventive direction, Kate Hollinshead gives a heartfelt, multi-layered performance as a young woman who desperately wants to get married and have a baby, but at the same time wants to be supportive of David and keep him buoyed. Petschler also gives a wonderful performance as the tormented, conflicted David who wants to have “all his ducks lined up” so that they can get married and have Ashley’s much desired baby.

The production moves along at a brisk pace with outstanding performances from a professional, talented ensemble including Vincent Giovanni (multiple roles), Joshua Grenrock, Catherine Schreiber, Chris Stacy (multiple roles), Amanda Troop (multiple roles), and Peter Van Norden who nails the role of agent Leo Goldberg. Of special note is Judy Nazemetz as Vanessa, the young couple’s eternally optimistic agent. She delivers some hilariously funny moments as she calls them from a variety of places, such as the car wash and Disneyland, delivering yet more bad news about rejections and cancelled pitch meetings with a big smile and a robust, cheerful voice. Miki Yamashita’s over-the-top real estate agent could use some toning down, as she reduced her character to screaming and employed an unfunny, muddy Asian accent.

On the technical side, with the exception of a creative sound design by Mike Shear who used fun music of the 40s and 50s to underscore the action, production values were quite poor with the amateurish set and light design by Francois-Pierre Couture actually detracting from the production. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining look into the life and times of two young writers trying to make it in the volatile world of show business.

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main Street. Performances Friday – Saturday 8 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through November 23. Tickets: 310.392.7327

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