If you've never had the chance to stand around backstage for a couple of hours during a would-be Shakespearean production, the Grove Theater Center's "Who Said What Said Where Said" offers you a sterling opportunity.
In the bargain, you get to be either a make-believe board member, financial backer, volunteer fund-raiser or an Actors-R-Us stage extra, while a classical company of rank amateurs has conniptions during a disastrous production of the Scottish play.
Grove artistic director Kevin Cochran and producer Charles Johanson, who take shared credit for the show's concept, dub the evening an "interactive event." Their tongue-in-cheek brainchild is billed as "multiple choice theater (a test you can't fail)." It sounds more promising than it turns out to be.
"Who Said What Said Where Said," which opened Saturday at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove, has no puzzle to solve, as the title seems to suggest. And though we quickly learn that the director and technical director have died in accidents during rehearsal and that the role of Macbeth will be played by a tape recording, this is no who-, what- or why-dunit.
In fact, it's not unlike "The Gong Show" on Thorazine. Depending on your eagerness to get into the let's-pretend spirit of the drill, "Who Said What Said Where Said" may (a) make you feel as giddy as a schoolyard clown, (b) bore you to death or (c) do both. The less tolerant just might (d) get angry and (e) ask for their money back.
It's a noisy evening: Petty rivalries erupt; fights break out among the players; a key actor gets fall-down drunk; rumors abound that the fill-in director is a slut; the stage manager makes no secret of his ambition to replace her; the fellow playing Lady Macbeth, a congenital whiner, can't keep his breasts properly adjusted.
There's more: The head of the volunteer association who has baked all the free cookies wants to be the star of the show but feels she's the target of sexist harassment; the fight coordinator, one of the evening's many theatrical casualties, ends up wandering around with his head in bandages and at one point is revived (with brain damage) by artificial respiration.
There's also a running subplot: The moneybags father of one of the players will underwrite the production regardless of its steeply rising costs, if only his lunatic son is given the leading role.
Were any of this conceived or executed with an imaginative comic flair, "Who Said What Said Where Said" might pass for hokey entertainment. As it stands, you can't help realizing 15 minutes into the show that nothing much actually happens and that the manic improvisation is all left-footed posturing.
The outer trappings of this ramshackle show are nicely designed--a two-page sheet of instructions courtesy of the "Grove Entertainment Machine" and a sealed "Identity Kit" that lets members of the audience know who they'll be playing.
At evening's end, the audience gets to vote on whether to fold the production or keep it going. Break a leg.
* "Who Said What Said Where Said," Gem Theater, Grove Theater Center, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends April 27. $16.50-$24.50. (714) 741-9550. Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
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Rick Batalla: Don Faustino Miguel Smith
Jonathan Fahn: Ike Prosser
Michelle Johnson: Anne Barry
Andy Milder: Davey Lane-Suzuki
Matt Walker: Douglas Mentone
Scott Evans: Bill Corto
Meleny Humphrey: An E. Foote
Sean Kinney: Phillip Breeze
Scoot Powell: Hunter Mayfield IV
Dan Lorge: voices
A Grove Theater Center production of a play conceived and produced by Kevin Cochran and Charles Johanson. Initial story grid developed by Cochran, Johanson and Matt Walker.