Fittingly, John Guare’s charming satire “Rich and Famous” opened at The Den the weekend of the Oscar’s, putting our society’s emphasis on glitz and glamour thoroughly into perspective.
On the night of his new play’s premiere, aspiring playwright Bing Ringling (Andrew Burden Swanson) aches for bountiful bank accounts and rave reviews. But within minutes it becomes clear his show is a flop, which catapults the young man into a quarter-life crisis. He spends the rest of the evening trying to outrun his latest failure and (misguidedly) seeking support from his family and friends.
The search for fame and fortune is not a new narrative concept. And maybe it’s the fun, feet-tapping songs or the great acting, but “Rich and Famous” feels incredibly unique. Under the surface it explores the power of perception, how easily our realities can be skewed, as well as the immense pressure put on people with passion and talent, everyone grasping at a piece of someone else’s success for themselves.
Despite their shaky singing abilities (that I might argue add a nice rawness to the sometimes saccharine songs), the small, young cast is incredibly talented and performs with great energy and creative commitment. Swanson ensures that you’re always rooting for Bing, feeling exactly what he feels. Baize Buzan transitions gracefully through each of her four roles, from a naïve ingénue to Bing’s wise-cracking, over-bearing mother. Bernard Balbot’s charisma and relentless humor buoy some too-long scenes that would otherwise wilt under the command of a lesser comedian. Torian Miller is a delight.
The show requires tight direction due to its dips into absurdity and abstraction and Nate Silver balances the fantasy and reality perfectly, shaping them into undeniable truth. If not rich and famous, the team at Jackalope Theater should at the very least be commended.