''Angel City'' is a northern Californian's worst nightmare about being trapped in Tinsel Town. If the smog don't get ya, says playwright Sam Shepard, selling out will.
Based on an actual experience the playwright had in a movie producer's office , it's a fractured look at The Corruption of an Innocent in Hollywood.
The ''innocent'' is a stunt man named Rabbit who's been summoned out of the desert to save a film.The producer wants nothing less than a real, live miracle. Rabbit meets a tympani player and a sassy secretary also trying to make it big. Everyone is trapped - by the siren call of the movies and by lethargy-producing big salaries. And outside, the city is killing off everything. Rabbit, despite his initial independence, gets sucked in and turns green.
This is early, psychedelic Shepard, and the focus is on issues, not tortured relationships like his later ''True West'' or ''Fool for Love.'' The issues Shepard reels off are biggies: Hollywood as both the land of dreams and the city where air pollution slowly chokes you; movies as the replacement for family, art , religion, finally the mind itself. Shepard makes no bones about where he stands on these issues, but the form in which he presents them is so loopy that you never feel preached at.
All the images are lifted right out of the celluloid world: He combines the hard-bitten dialogue of old detective movies with the fresh enthusiasm of an Andy Hardy brainstorm. Unexpected twists abound: Actors slide around on stage on swiveling desk chairs, the secretary sashays in with a glass of water balanced on the back of her hand, and the tympani player fries eggs on his drum. There's a hard-edged cuteness about it, as well as exuberant energy.
cc16p6 The acting, by John Bottoms as Rabbit and Ben Halley Jr., Harry S. Murphy, Karen MacDonald, and Thomas Derrah, is first rate. Thom Palm, as lighting director, provides a beautifully brilliant, ever-changing backdrop of color. It's a fine production by one of America's top young playwrights. The American Repertory Theatre production at the Hasty Pudding Theatre runs through April 29.