From Charlie Chaplin’s silent films to the hyper-sexualized action flicks of the 90s, the three-man comedy show that is “Completely Hollywood (Abridged)” scrutinizes the 12 fundamentals of film through the lens of 186 movies made over the last century.
The show, coming to the Triumvirate Theatre this weekend and next, is a marriage of stand-up comedy and improv, with a dash of traditional theater thrown in. The three actors — Joshua Ball, Jamie Nelson, and Justin Smith — sport suit jackets, muumuus, Superman boxers, and other ridiculous costumes over the two-hour performance, impersonating young and old, human and android, male and female.
“We do impersonate several different characters,” said Ball. “There’s cross-gender, because obviously when you run into Hollywood with a three-man show, there’s going to be some female roles.
“And thankfully Justin is a confident enough man to be wearing a dress for the majority of the show,” he laughed.
Since the play is written by another three-man ensemble from the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the jokes are more tailored to the original actors’ personalities and physical traits, meaning that Ball, Nelson, and Smith had to make some alterations.
“A couple of the jokes we had to tweak just to be able to make them our own,” Nelson said.
The three friends have been toying with the script and rehearsing for the past six weeks, but have been hitting it hard for the last two to prepare for Thursday’s opening night. With Angie Nelson in charge of lights and sound and Kara Bethune acting as prop master, the three men play dual roles: actor and director.
“The three of us are directing ourselves,” said Jamie Nelson. “Which has been a lot of fun, because if there’s ever been an issue where we weren’t sure how to direct ourselves, we could turn to our two peers who we trust and respect enough that we didn’t filter or sugarcoat anything if something wasn’t working. We could be honest with each other.”
While the constant rotation of characters is certainly amusing, Ball, Nelson, and Smith still have interim moments on stage where they are completely themselves, waxing intellectual about the virtues and shortcomings of the silver screen.
“Aside from specific scenes,” Smith said, “I really like the moments on stage where it’s just the three of us talking about film and establishing the 12 critical components and breaking down some of the things we either find amusing about Hollywood or think are trite in Hollywood. Just that conversational aspect of three buddies hanging out and talking about what they do and don’t like about film.”
This relaxed atmosphere paired with some audience participation makes “Completely Hollywood (Abridged)” not your typical play experience. And that’s a good thing.
“I think it really allows for audience members to relax and have fun and laugh and enjoy it,” Ball said of the show. “Because if we enjoy laughing at ourselves and doing all of this stuff on stage, then the people sitting in the seats will too.”
“Completely Hollywood (Abridged)” will be at the Triumvirate Theatre this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as well as July 7, 8, and 9. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the theater in the Peninsula Center Mall. To complete the movie experience, concessions will be available for purchase.