The tenor of the perfs is consistent in their amateurishness,” said Daily Variety’s review, adding that the tech credits are ”underwhelming and even bad.” With high praise like that, it’s no wonder Beverly Winwood Presents the Actors Showcase is one of Hollywood’s hardest-to-get tickets. Every Monday at the 99-seat Groundling Theatre, noted alumni of the venue’s namesake comedy troupe — including Paul Reubens (Pee-wee’s Playhouse), Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show), and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) — forget everything they ever learned, joining in director Tony Sepulveda’s stage satire of foolish actors making foolish choices. They play rank amateurs who’ve invited industry pros to their disastrous showcase, doing a few lame minutes of Fame or Willy Loman in the belief that managerial attention must be paid.
”I couldn’t believe no one had thought of doing this before,” says Reubens, back in the same theater where, a quarter century ago, he conceived Pee-wee for a sketch about a woeful, doomed comic. Now Reubens dons a mullet to play a blatantly sighted actor waxing blind in Butterflies Are Free—with his erstwhile Miss Yvonne, Lynne Marie Stewart, doing a hilariously blowsy, middle-aged take on that play’s ingenue. Reubens got ”totally jealous” after coming to see Showcase and begged to join the cast. ”I got in in the nick of time. Now there’s a waiting list of people who want to be in it.”
Or just see it. Among the bigwigs who did prior to the show’s March 18 opening was Sex and the City executive producer Michael Patrick King, who successfully petitioned to have a Sex scene added, played out with distinctly unsultry Carrie and Miranda stand-ins. There’s been some backlash from folks who feel the concept makes fun of the little people, but the cast feels it’s closer to self-satire. ”This is the antithesis of the Oscars, where everyone self-promotes and takes themselves so seriously,” says Coolidge. But is now the time for mocking delusional actorly hauteur? As Tom Cruise might say: more than…ever.