The Island of Misfit Sociopaths

“My love to Tovah,” producer Jack Story (Mark Roberts) barks into the phone at the end of the conversation that opens Enter at Forest Lawn.  The “conversation” is more of a monologue, an extended tirade into a hands-free telephone about Jack’s “hateful cunt” of a wife, a “maniacal bush-pig” who has left his asshole “drippin’ black blood.”  The obligatory greeting to his lawyer’s wife, then, sets the tone for this brief, sharp, and hilarious play, one whose mantra is “if it ain’t on the screen, it never fucking happened.”  With the exception of a few niceties (“love to Tovah”), Enter at Forest Lawn is about what happens off-screen.

Jack, whose veins are one bad call away from bursting out of his sweaty, balding head, shuffles around his office in a deliberately artificial manner, hunched, jerking, and swaying like a shadowboxing Richard III.  He is the creator and showrunner for a hit sitcom whose lovable, rascally star, Uncle Danny, is an addict and a pedophilic rapist.  But Danny lives in the kind of town where, when his boss is informed of this behavior, he only asks, “How young?”  We follow him for a day, where he is caught between those who aren’t cut out for the business—his publicist Stanley (David Lanson) and secretary Jessica (Sarah Lemp)—and those who are licking their lips, waiting to rush in as soon as he collapses—the hungry would-be producer Marla (Anna Stromberg) and her deranged writer nephew, Clinton (Matthew Pilieci).  Jack is smart and has long since ground away any compassion he has for others, but his time is clearly up.  Like a president or a mobster, he is maimed into a lifestyle where successful behavior and self-destructive behavior are one and the same thing.  Eventually, you make too many enemies, you get too little sleep, and your only reason for staying is your aversion to real life, which consists only of “fat people and bad coffee.”

Mr. Roberts, who also wrote the script, is a fierce presence, a howling tour-de-force whose foul-mouthed, logorrheic rants sustain both their interest and their shock value and never descend into monotony.  Ms. Stromberg proves a compelling foil—when she first walks into his office, she offers a hollow laugh and pedals her hands to indicate that she watched Jack’s last episode while exercising; her mouth is an explosion of red lipstick, her tone always chipper and vulpine, an indication that she can play to the vapid Hollywood types (as well as the jaundiced executives) while all the while coiling her legs around their soon-to-be crushed bodies.  And though the script does not offer new insights about a business that has been satirized since its inception, it is irresistibly, nastily poetic—as when Jack notes that someone has “a guillotine for a pussy”—and never plays like smug or immature cynicism.  The Amoralists, who produce fascinating, memorable, but often flawed and overlong works, have in Enter at Forest Lawn a tight and exciting play that, when taken on its own terms, is entirely unimpeachable.

Enter at Forest Lawn runs through August 9th at Walkerspace.  46 Walker Street  New York, NY.  1 hour 10 minutes.  No intermission.

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Aaron Botwick

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