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Playhouse will lift the curtain on 'Tabletop'

May 21, 2004

Tom Titus

Egomaniacal artists, an autocratic director, demanding clients,

second-guessing technicians and naive wannabes. A recipe for artistic

disaster?

Probably, but no one ever confused filming food commercials with

art. No one, that is, except those involved in the process.

Laguna Playhouse audiences will get an up-close-and-personal look

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at these fascinating characters next weekend in the West Coast

premiere of Rob Ackerman's play "Tabletop." It's described as a

frenzied comedy taking place in the wild and profane world of a

television food commercial film studio.

Although it's been staged only once, in New York, "Tabletop" comes

with some pretty glowing reports. The New York Times commented that

the play "encompasses idealism, compromise and illusion in an all too

real world of mass manipulation." The New York Post went even

further, declaring it to be "the best new American play in quite a

while."

Andrew Barnicle, artistic director of the playhouse, is staging

this final production of Laguna's 2003-04 season, which will offer

previews Tuesday through Friday before its grand opening Saturday.

The cast will include just one familiar figure -- Kevin Symons,

making his fourth appearance here following his work in "Spinning

Into Butter," "Rounding Third" and "The Constant Wife."

The temperamental and demanding producer/director/studio owner

will be played by Jeff Meek who, while he'll be making his Laguna

debut, already is familiar to local playgoers who saw "A Streetcar

Named Desire" at South Coast Repertory or "Coriolanus" at UC Irvine.

Others in the "Tabletop" cast are Al Espinosa, Tony Jones, Andrea

Odinov and Sal Viscuso. Dwight Richard Odle is designing the set with

lighting by Paulie Jenkins and sound design by David Edwards, all

resident designers at the playhouse.

Playwright Ackerman is quite familiar with the world he satirizes

in "Tabletop." For the past 15 years, he's worked as a prop master

for movies, commercials and TV's "Saturday Night Live." His first

play, "Origin of the Species," became an award-winning independent

film starring Amanda Peet.

"Tabletop" earned the 2001 Drama Desk Award for best ensemble

performance in its New York premiere. Ackerman currently is writing

the screenplay for "Tabletop" and has done two others, "The Last

Word," produced this year, and "Bait and Tackle" since then.

Laguna's "Tabletop" will be on stage Tuesdays through Fridays at 8

p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. until

June 27, with reservations being taken at (949) 497-2787. The play

contains adult language and themes.

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