Simplicity in entertainment is often overlooked in favor of visual effects. A lot of directors rely on detailed sets and costumes in hopes that these factors will hopefully both mesmerize and distract the audience.
Brandon Paul Ogborn’s latest production, “The TomKat Project”, is not hinged on anything other than the quality of the script and the versatility of his actors. The show, which Ogborn narrates, blends real and imagined scenes from the marriage between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The set is simple: a black box theater. The costumes are black street clothes, and each actor or actress has a chair and a box or props. Like the children's classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon, aided with nothing but their incredible talent and Ogborn's script, the actors are able to take us to the depths of our imagination.
Julie Dahlinger is perfect as Katie Holmes. As a longtime fan of “Dawson’s Creek”, it was amazing seeing how Dahlinger was able to perfectly mime Holmes’ “aw shucks”, girl-from-Ohio attitude. Walt Delaney is spot-on as Tom Cruise. While a lot of actors and YouTube amateurs do a caricature of Cruise, Delaney’s portrayal makes him human, which fits perfectly with Ogborn’s script.
Micah Sterenberg, Brianna Baker, Allison Yolo and Kevin Knickerbocker are a director’s dream. Playing an impressive 53 roles between them (with Baker clocking in at an impressive 18 roles all by herself), Ogborn and director Elly Green, picked the right cast. Each actor and actress is a chameleon in his or her own right. Baker’s portrayal of Oprah is fantastic, and Sterenberg is spot on as the conniving overlord of Scientology, David Miscaviage. Kevin Knickerbocker goes all in and shows his range as Martin Joseph Holmes and Sumner Redstone.
Allison Yolo killed me with her hilarious interpretations of Rebecca Gayheart and Kathleen Holmes. She is incredible as Maureen Orth—the special correspondent at Vanity Fair, who’s October 2012 article “What Katie Didn’t Know”, painted Holmes as a victim and feminist hero.
Ogborn’s script is enterprising. In the beginning he recaps the story we all heard about Holmes and Cruise’s courtship, but in the final act (an act of sheer genius, or valor for those who’ve seen the show), Ogborn faces off against his imagining of Maureen Orth in a battle royale.
“The TomKat Project” is humorous and thought provoking. It proves once again that quality entertainment is not hinged on elaborate sets or stiff ideas, but the quality of writing and the synergy between actors. Ogborn’s show is yet another example of how you can postulate the larger questions while also relying on humor as a way to present them in a way that is accessible to everyone.
The TomKat Project
Every Wednesday @ 8pm until April 24th, 2012
The Playground Theater (3209 N. Halsted St.)
Poster courtesy of Jacob Sanders.
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