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Review: 'Desperate Writers' at Edgemar Center for the Arts

April 23, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Desperate-writers George II once chided a noble acquaintance for writing poetry. “Tis beneath your rank,” he observed.  “Leave such work to little Mr. Pope.  It is his trade.”

Three hundred years later, the writing trade, with exceptions, commands scant respect. That’s particularly true in Hollywood, home of star packaging and possessory “Film By” credits, where writers, as a life form, rank somewhere below the lower invertebrates.

The veteran writing team of Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber are out for a little payback in “Desperate Writers,” their world premiere comedy at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. Essentially one long Hollywood in-joke, their pointed lampoon is wish fulfillment of a high order that will tickle anyone who has been on the receiving end of the industry’s prevalent boorishness.

The desperate writers of the title are David and Ashley (able Brian Krause and sprightly Kate Hollinshead, collaborators and lovers who have been struggling to sell a screenplay for 10 years.  Ashley wants to get married and have a baby, while David insists on keeping their personal lives on hold until they score a screenplay deal.  In desperation, Ashley abducts three high-powered Hollywood producers, played by Grenrock, Schreiber, and hilariously slobbish Andrew Ross Wynn, intending to force them to sit down, shut up, and pay respectful attention to her and David’s pet project.

It’s ironic, perhaps unintentionally so, that Ashley and David so pointedly decry the death of new material in an age of remakes and sequels.  After all, “Writers” is in itself blatantly derivative. (The film “King of Comedy” comes immediately to mind.)

A neater bit of irony is the fact that Grenrock and Schreiber appear as the very characters they are sending up.  Grenrock is a stitch as Burke, a producer desperate to revive his “nose” for hits.  Physically well cast, Schreiber is nonetheless a bit stiff as Jessica, Burke’s ex, who is also a savvy survivor with some keen regrets.

Kay Cole’s sometimes awkward staging isn’t helped by François-Pierre Couture’s cumbersome set, but the piece’s intrinsic playfulness and a comically apt cast ameliorate any minor flaws in this delightfully scathing send-up.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Desperate Writers,” Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica.  8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays.  Ends May 10.  $25.  (800) 838-3006.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo:  Kate Hollinshead and Brian Krause in "Desperate Writers" Credit: Michael Lamond