Media mogul Moses Znaimer and hit playwright Kat Sandler have teamed up to offer Toronto the hottest ticket in town. Sandler’s new play, Late Night, a wild comedy about several career meltdowns during a live TV broadcast, is actually staged inside a real television studio. The results are hilarious and nerve-shattering. What is supposed to be a fond farewell to a revered TV personality quickly turns into a on-air scandal triggering seismographic ratings.
Late Night is the story of veteran late-night TV host Marty O’Malley (think Jay Leno) who is being ‘eased’ into retirement. He no longer fits the demographics of a younger audience and this is his last show. On live TV, he is to hand over the reins of The Early Late Show to a younger anchor, and a woman. O’Malley is not happy about his leaving. He is being shoved out to pasture by a new generation, and his leaving represents a shift in taste, custom, and gender.
O’Malley’s departure and the crowning of his protégé is a expected to be a television milestone. It is, but NOT as intended. All goes smoothly, and then with the slip of the tongue, and a few drinks, things go terribly wrong. Imaginary scandals trigger real ones. Finally, it’s all hands on deck for damage-control. On one hand, the show’s sponsors love the ratings which they monitor, moment to moment, with bated breath. On the other, they are horrified at the what is now a public-relations nightmare in real time (think American presidential elections).
In this production, ZoomerMedia‘s television studio is used brilliantly. We get to see a play about a “live broadcast” in the same space used for real broadcasting. At the same time we get to enjoy the huge flatscreens that encircle the room, showing us what any TV audience might sees at home. During Late Night, we watch the technicians working studio cameras. As well, we get to witness what goes on “during the commercial breaks ” and all the incredible arguments that explode when the TV camera aren’t on. This staging is hypnotic, because you’re constantly feeling you’re in a reality show, not just watching one!
Alon Nashman plays Marty O’Malley, who is forced to share the host chair with his comedic protégé Sarah Goldberg (Kat Letwin) after a long reign as TV’s late night king. Maria Vacratsis stars as Alana, the veteran show’s producer who has made the fateful decision to broadcast the show live in front of a studio audience, composed of all those who come to the play. Michael Musi, is Alana’s hapless intern, endlessly embarrassed, used, and one might say, tortured, by the producer. With the antics of guest “movie star” Kevin Lee Hicks (Nigel Downer) and an unexpected visit by O’Malley’s glamorous wife, played by Rachel Jones, the evening soars into the surreal dynamics of unfolding tabloid exposé. Late Night is a whirling cocktail of pure social disgrace.
Everyone is this show is picture perfect, but I have a special fondness for Kat Letwin’s funny, heartfelt performance as a woman operating in a tricky industry, where there’s a fine line between getting people to laugh with you, only to wind up becoming the brunt of cruel jokes. And Nigel Downer is terrific as the guest movie star, promoting his series of cliché ridden flicks.
Late Night is fabulous entertainment for everyone, but I’m sure it will have special appeal for a young audience, waiting for an older generation to “retire” and open up the field for new blood. So if you’re a 20-40 something, see this show! And if you’re older, see this show! You’ll laugh your socks off. But you’ll also recognize the dangers of living in a world that both deplores scandal while feeding off of it.
Late Night, written and directed by Kat Sandler.
Starring: Alon Nashman, Kat Letwin, Maria Vacratsis, Michael Musi, Nigel Downer, & Rachel Jones.
Executive Producer: Moses Znaimer
Dramaturge: Tom McGee
Producer: Benjamin Blais
Publicity & PR: Karen Knox
Sound Design: Sam Sholdice
Costume Design: Holly Lloyd
DATES AND TIMES:
Wed-Sat – 8:00PM
70 Jefferson Avenue, in Liberty Village
All photos by JOHN GUNDY