Overstated theme, understated acting mar message of ‘Billboard’

Michael Vukadinovich’s comedy “Billboard,” at the Onyx Theatre through June 1, is about the extent to which commercialism has permeated our daily lives, with questions about the meaning of art and the objectification of the person thrown in for good measure.

Andy, a recent college graduate is paid to have a corporate logo tattooed on his forehead in order to afford an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Katelyn. Katelyn is repulsed and vindictively seizes on the situation as an opportunity to create a photo-documentary using Andy’s body as a ready-made art object, a la Marcel Duchamp.

Their liberal friend Damon interjects reality like non sequiturs into this hothouse argument about art versus commercialism. When Andy is finally convinced by Damon to tear up his corporate check and have the tattoo removed, he gets a big surprise.

The problem with this mildly amusing play from SRO Productions is that it doesn’t have much else to say beyond its basic premise and becomes an extended Philosophy of Art 101 lecture. Perhaps it would have been better as one of the shorts featured in the upcoming Fringe Festival at the Las Vegas Little Theatre rather than a full-length comedy.

Some of the heady ideas being aired could have been better enfleshed in Andy and Katelyn’s relationship, but Robert Routin’s direction remains focused on the cerebral rather than the personal conflicts of the couple.

The one-note performances by Richard Humphrey as Andy and Stefanie Jillian as Katelyn don’t help to humanize the play’s concepts. The pacing of their dialogue is mechanical. Perhaps in a case of opening night jitters, Humphrey often stumbled over his lines. His awkward stage gestures distracted from the character.

Jillian as Katelyn should have been the heart of the play, the person who makes us care about the ideas being spouted, but unfortunately Jillian, who looks like the young Natalie Wood, is as wooden as that actress in her performance.

Patrick Edward Scagnelli as Damon, Andy and Katelyn’s liberal activist friend, brings more depth to his comic character. While they argue about the meaning of art, Damon keeps interjecting comments about the wars in the Middle East, global warming and other inconvenient realities. Damon is given some of the funniest lines in the play, such as, “Over 65 percent of statistics are made up.” He has a “No Blood for Oil” bumper sticker on his car. Scagnelli’s characterization of Damon is natural and believable.

Roxy Mojica and Robert Routin’s set design wryly captures Katelyn’s observation from Salinger that it would be nice if all houses were identical. The set, while ostensibly an eccentric artist’s loft, is actually impersonal. A row of Coke bottles filled with a rainbow of colored flowers is a sharp caricature of the artificiality of consumer individualism.

The apparently haphazard costume choices by the cast did not always serve the characters as well. Unless the irony went over my head, the character of Damon is specifically said never to wear Levi’s as a political statement about sweatshop labor, but Scagnelli is wearing Levi’s onstage.

A loop of vintage TV commercials that rolls before the opening curtain sets the play’s comic tone. In a scene where Katelyn and Andy watch TV as they look out toward the audience, AV technician Arik Cunningham creates a clever lighting design that reflects the colors of a flashing TV screen on the actors’ faces.

Humphrey and Jillian are attractive stage presences as Andy and Katelyn, and so as pretty but shallow both actors perhaps exemplify Vukadinovich’s discussion of commercialism versus true art. But for that discussion to be authentic, the play needs full-bodied performances by the two leads.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like