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Theater Review

From a Dream to a Nightmare

An actor gets his big break, only to be crushed under the thumb of a 'Big Shot.'


Aspiring actors can flail against the Hollywood system for years without making a dent, a thankless endeavor that can result in psychological whiplash.

In "Big Shot," his solo show at the Lillian, playing directly after the 8 p.m. show "Go True West" on the same stage, Ben Davis examines the sometimes bizarre lengths actors may be driven to in the desperate struggle for success. Davis' tale, directed by Scott Rabinowitz, who also contributes the evocative lighting design, could be subtitled "A Hollywood Horror Story."

Like any good B-movie thriller, there's a certain "Duh!" factor at work here. The "Duh!" factor is part of that familiar cinematic quotient in which characters perversely enter a haunted house's cellar despite reports of a monster lurking there. Their all-too-predictable fates rate a resounding "Duh!" from the exasperated audience.

Figuratively speaking, Davis ventures into the fatal cellar when he falls under the influence of Jonah, a wealthy Hollywood "big shot" who casts Davis in his new play and vows to make him a huge star--sweet words to the struggling actor, who has recently been reduced to acting for free in a loincloth and glitter. To Davis' dismay, Jonah (not his real name) soon proves a monster of the most eviscerating sort, alternately heaping praise and abuse on his terrified underlings.

Worse, Jonah genuinely believes that he is God Almighty, possessing the power of life and death over all.

But does that creepy revelation send Davis fleeing for the exit? Not quite yet.

Although Davis' manic delivery results in a few line flubs early on, his is a cautionary yarn well spun, a scary but comical journey into the dark heart of Hollywood.

Granted, Davis' decision to finally break free of Jonah's mad influence might engender that familiar "Duh!"

However, Davis' show makes a serious point about how destructive sheer yearning, devoid of ameliorating common sense, can be.

"Big Shot," the Lillian Theater, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. Fridays and Saturdays, 9 p.m. Ends June 29. $12. (323) 221-6656. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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