New York theater regular Neil LaBute returns to his old stomping ground, off-Broadway's MCC Theater, with his latest work, "The Money Shot." Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
Ever since Kaufman and Hart's "Once in a Lifetime" lampooned Hollywood excess and vanity, playwrights have tweaked Tinseltown for its giant egos and teensy talent. Neil LaBute is the latest. His take-no-prisoners satire, "The Money Shot," throws together four movie types, adds booze and lets the insults fly.
We're high in the Hollywood Hills at the home of Karen, a statuesque movie star and ostentatious charity volunteer. Karen's persnickety partner, Bev, works in film editing. They are hosting a dinner party for action-film hunk Steve and his much younger, aspiring-starlet wife, Missy. After a great deal of of vamping dialogue in which characters flaunt their ignorance, hubris, contempt and/or neuroses, we get to the meat of the matter: Steve and Karen, co-stars in a new film, have been asked to perform unsimulated sex in a scene. The premise is ripe for graphic language and politically-incorrect laughs: She's a lesbian, he's a pig.
Truth is, "The Money Shot" feels like a sketch with a play written around it, and could easily lose 15 of its meandering 100 minutes. Still, the actors dig into their flawed characters with zest, and Terry Kinney helps them enhance caricature with something more dimensional. Weller adds another callow jerk to his rogue's gallery. Regal Elizabeth Reaser and spunky Callie Thorne form an amusingly sweet odd couple. Gia Crovatin nearly steals her scenes: her role may be the stereotypical dumb blonde, but she finds little eruptions of manic, mannered weirdness amidst the clichés.
There are easy laughs and less of that cheap, bitter aftertaste you get with most LaBute shockers. Still, when the bullseye is this broad, it's not hard to hit dead center.