La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere Hollywood, written by Joe DiPietro (Memphis), is like its namesake Tinseltown: sexy, swaggering, glamorous … and artificial. All but one of its characters – a no-B.S. stage mother terrifically played by Harriet Harris – are “types,” scarcely more profound than the suspects in “Clue.” Now it’s true that the Christopher Ashley-directed Hollywood is 50 percent a theatrical whodunit, as in who murdered ‘20s movie director William Desmond Taylor (Scott Drummond)? But the other 50 percent of the story, having to do with the conservative prig Will H. Hays’ (Patrick Kerr) efforts to moralize the movies and the movie industry at the same time, is by large measure the more interesting narrative.
Wilson Chin’s versatile scenic design, Paul Tazewell’s stylish ‘20s costumes and nifty projection design by Tara Knight combine to give Hollywood its “movie magic,” but it’s hard to care about anyone on stage or really about who indeed done in the dead director.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.