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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
The 29th St. Rep prides itself in defining its plays as scathing and visceral. This is all that and X-Rated too: Besides strong language and violence, there's also nudity. With this caveat out of the way, Bobby Supreme is, like everything I've seen in this 60-seat walk-up theater, provides a gripping theatrical evening. Not perfect. Not uplifting. But interesting, thought provoking, in-your-face theater about carved out of the lives of contemporary people caught in the grip of uncontrollable emotions.
Unlike previous plays by this company, Bobby Supreme is not about ordinary people but about a celebrity who steps out from behind fan magazine headlines. Bobby Supreme (David Mogentale) is a performance artist invented by one. Bobby Sikowski. His invented self, ("the only comic bigot out there") has attained super stardom with all the trimmings -- a profile on the cover of Rolling Stone and bookings that have made him worth millions. But fame based more on outrageousness and increasingly incendiary violence, than genuine talent has its price. As Bobby's act becomes ever more inflammatory it seeds copycat violence by some of his fans. His on-stage over-the-edge behavior also spills over into his off-stage life.
That's the basic situation. The mystery is learning what makes Bobby tick and finding out whether the ticking bomb he's become will explode. Five other players figure in piecing together the puzzle that is Bobby Supreme: Angelina (Paula Ewin) who is his collaborator even though no longer his lover, knows him best. She wants him to stop the violence before it consumes him. . . Douglas (Charles Willey) is one of those reporters who do their homework to get at the real story of their subjects. His questions prompt a volley of flip yet revealing responses . . . Riggs (Leo Farley), a talent manager, first saw Bobby in a "square" comedy club. He didn't think he was very good and yet he thought there might be something to it. Now, Bobby is his only client and ticket for big bucks and making an impression on girls picked up in bars. . . Janet (Elizabeth Elkins) is a do-gooder who wants to enlist Bobby to give a benefit for the homeless. When he gives her a dose of his abusive misogynism she turns out to be have a lot more savvy than he gave her credit for. . . Brandy (Moira MacDonald) is one of Bobby's groupies and the human straw that breaks the back of Angelina's loyalty
The excellent performances by the entire cast more than compensate for the somewhat familiar and overly melodramatic plot. Each of the five supporting players has at least one star turn. David Mogentale's portrayal of the star around whom everything revolves, Bobby Supreme a.k.a. Bobby Sikowski, begs one to reach for that overused foreignism, tour-de-force. John Malkovich has nothing on this talented actor when it comes to projecting a true sense of malignancy which also crackles with charisma.
Thanks to Tim Corcoran's assured direction -- with an assist from a fine set, lighting and sound design team -- the tiny stage is alive and bristling with excitement. As said earlier, this play is not for the faint of heart or prudishly inclined, nor is it a great play. But it is good theater. As one of Cole Porter's songs asked, "Who could ask for anything more?"
Other plays from this company reviewed at CurtainUp