THE ROAD TO NIRVANA, Trap Door Theatre. Conceived as a send-up of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow prospectively entitled "Bone-the-Fish," Arthur Kopit's Hollywood satire never quite transcends its roots in parody. The play's best moments are strictly comic, as when Kopit takes a few savage slashes at producer types. Alas, his attempts to mimic Mamet's staccato style can't hold a candle to more pitch-perfect parodists like David Ives. Even more damning, Kopit pretty much says all he has to say about show business by the end of the first act, when one producer asks another to eat a bowl of shit as proof he really cares about a project.
When Gary Sinise directed this play at Steppenwolf several years ago, he fell flat on his face--and sent the company's well-heeled subscribers running for their valet-parked cars at intermission. Michael S. Pieper has had considerably more success, in part because Kopit's angry, eccentric play suits Trap Door's edgy, rough aesthetic. Pieper has also enhanced the script by adding music videos--including one by the Madonna-like rock goddess Nirvana herself--to the beginning, middle, and end of the production and by assembling a cast willing to deliver the balls-out performance the material requires.
Sean Marlow's Nirvana, played as a cunning combo of Courtney Love and Sharon Tate, deserves special note, even if at times his multilayered drag act only underscores how shallow Kopit's nasty little play really is. --Jack Helbig