CSC’s Wrecking Ball is powerful live theatre which you’ll talk about the whole ride home. This new comedy by Cincinnati native Zina Camblin is filled with laughs as well as enough meaty content to fuel a night of discussion and rumination. Wrecking Ball is running now through October 28 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
CSC’s Wrecking Ball Plot
This new play, set in the present, is about an assistant’s experience in a comedy writing room. It is the old Hollywood ways of doing things (Baby Boomers and Gen X) versus the Gen Z and young millennial expectations. The old: you need to learn to walk through fire, kid, then one day you get to be the one holding the match. The new: equality and respect from day one, no starting at the bottom.
The pressure is writing a pilot in three days, adapting Lanford WIlson’s “Hot’L Baltimore” into a television series. Yes, they know it was done previously by Norman Lear–an eternity ago–but there is still value in seeing a mixed group of people in a single space under pressure. None of the writers appear to have any filters, and they both support each other as well as clash.
Camblin wrote Wrecking Ball based on her own experience as a Hollywood writer, according to CSC press releases. The show explores personalities and tensions, increased stakes, recognition of self, and navigating the rungs to bigger success. The timing of this premiere is interesting, right after the WGA writer’s strike has been resolved (for now) and writers’ issues have been featured in the media. Both the strike and the show focus on the old versus the new yet I’m surprised AI is not mentioned in this play.
Camblin had some of these particular actors in mind as she wrote the play. She has tailored the script to the actor’s strengths, but the script can easily play in Peoria, too.
It is refreshing to see your favorite CSC actors in the present day! Plus, making a very strong Cincinnati debut is Victoria Cartegena, who holds the play together as the quiet but focused writers assistant.
Jeremy Dubin is Danny the show runner. He is strong and arrogant. He pushes back about pronouns and constantly name drops his best bud who does sleezy popular low comedy shows “which almost broke Twitter.” (Is that a good thing? Discuss.)
Burgess Byrd and Dale Hodges are the Story Editors (which is a step above writer). Darnelle Pierre Benjamin, Sara Mackie and Patrick Earl Phillips craft other unique personas who contribute to the pilot writing process. Hodges is a germaphobe who has been around the longest. Byrd is the Oprah of her family, but in the Hollywood scheme of things she knows she has to keep her head down, do her job, not draw any attention to herself or her success. Mackie is still reeling from the pain of a divorce, grasping at every new age remedy.
These six disparate characters are tasked with writing the pilot but focus on their own issues. The play takes its time letting them each have their moment. Each character has a backstory which provides the pain that purportedly allows comedy to grow. Does comedy have to come from pain? (Another discussion topic.) There are also some amusing video cameos, too.
The Production Team
The first thing you notice is the modern conference room set (Sarah Lambert) is mostly in the middle of the theatre. The action is down center. It makes you feel more included, a listener in the room. However, some of the dialogue is lost when the character’s back is to you. Kudos to props (Kara Eble Trusty) who ensure the set has the “first day of school feel” with all the markers lined up, and a working Keurig.
The clothing (Daryl Harris) and the lighting (Jessica Drayton) are organic to the situation. There’s a number of lines about shoes. Do the shoe references imply empathy or lack of empathy, such as not being able to walk in another’s shoes?
The play is framed by music (sound designer Zack Bennet), from memorable sitcom theme songs including, of course, a few lines from “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, as well as other modern anthems. These transitions are cleverly staged.
Wrecking Ball is a great new play which has something for everybody: themes to chew on, characters to love or hate, nostalgia for the old sitcoms. It is definitely one to discuss. My spouse ranks it as one of his new favorite plays because it forces you to think about and connect with current issues.
It is apt that this play is premiering at CSC. A number of Shakespeare’s famous characters announce “I am an ass” or use other words to mean the same thing. That self-recognition is so healthy, humbling and humanizing., and part of the bard’s greatness. The ability to know and laugh at ourselves, must be the first step of comedy. Without this, can comedy continue to entertain?
Tickets to CSC’s Wrecking Ball
Wrecking Ball, run time one hour and fourty-five minutes with no intermission, runs through Oct. 28. For tickets and more information visit cincyshakes.com.