Editor's note: Every year we look forward to the theatrical inspiration from companies across the valley that comes together for the Vegas Fringe, hosted by Las Vegas Little Theatre. Our team of reviewers has worked to cover each of the shows. Here is the fifth and final post in our series from Galina Vasileva. "The Best of Fringe" winning productions perform an encore 6/23-6/24.
Beat the heat and catch them before they're gone!
"The Money Shot" ★★★★★
Las Vegas Little Theatre
“The Money Shot,” by Neil LaBute is a sharp Hollywood satire, offering a spectacular clash of personalities - each of them slowly and surely volunteered into a kettle with hot water, who come out painfully burned. LVLT's version of “The Money Shot” is an absolutely funny, entertaining, and well done play.
Unexpected dialogue from each of the characters risked touching a wound in their partners if they were not thoughtful or careful. Unfortunately for the group trying to shoot their risqué movie, no one was either careful or thoughtful, not even Bev, the most intelligent among them. They beat up each other constantly, whether consciously, or unconsciously, until the conflict grew into an all-out battle.
The production was successful because of the striking cast. All of them presented each character with rich, unique personalities. The cast was small, but full of interesting decisions, which added a lot of movement to the text of a somehow static play. The plot developed in the same place, with the same furniture, in the same scene for ninety minutes, as the audience is followed four people working at a brisk pace, and adding their own personal spice.
Chris Hermening was terribly amusing and absolutely convincing as "Steve." His work was precise and deeply engaged in order to stay interesting. He equipped Steve with fast thoughts and tongue, but the writer left the character a bit shallow, completely focused on his success, and the looks of his wife. Hermening gave his character great confidence and high self – esteem, despite the script's evidence to the contrary. His character possessed an impulsive and drilling nature that proved to be both uncertain, and weak, in his reality. The dynamic nature of his role made the script come alive, and contrasted well with the character of "Bev."
Jessie Johnson's "Bev" was strong to the end as a foil to Steve, and her little claws were clicking hard together whenever their tension would rise. In a way, they seemed to share similar personalities, but with different tools to work with. Johnson followed her instincts and road the momentum of the piece. Her characterization was engaging, however, I did wish that Johnson had taken a little more time to slowly reveal her true nature as a surprise for the audience, but this was a minor point.
Trina Colon as "Karen" and Caitlin Cypher as "Missy" found enough room to sparkle with originality as buffers in the conflict, cunningly ruling their own domain in the story. Colon did lovely work developing very smooth and natural pretentious physicality, that helped to establish for the audience their sense of place, and her role in it. Colon's Karen remained constantly on her toes, with strong sense of self-preservation, assisted by regular drinking. Caitlin Cypher was also compelling to watch. Her journey drove Missy to become her total opposite at the end of the play, as she made the most of stolen moments when her husband did not observe her diet, offering silent action that spoke loudly in the conflict.
The costumes and lights were simple, designed to support the story without pulling focus, which was appropriate for a fringe production. Congratulations to all involved! This show kept the audience on the edge of their seats.