Mizlansky / Zilinsky

L.A. Theatre Works audio adaptation of the play by John Robin Baitz, a satire of Hollywood’s fringe dwellers, also rans, and tax shelter schemes. It involves a fading movie mogul who’s trying to market Bible stories on audio, but has cooked the books in the process.

Enjoyable enough comedy and satire (with a darker bite, dealing with anti-Semitism — most of the characters are Jews) though can be one of those plays which is a tad unsatisfying by the end. Not gut busting hilarious, yet not completely satisfying emotionally (since Mizlansky is an anti-hero) or conceptually (it’s not like it’s some grand house of cards scheme). Even the anti-Semitism can feel a bit tacked on toward the end simply to add gravitas. And I’m sometimes a bit ambivalent about stories that, on one hand, want to tackle prejudice and anti-Semitism — even as many of the Jewish characters are portrayed as con artists and avaricious. Baitz (who I assume is Jewish) presumably wants to satirize all sides, but it does seem to send mixed impressions.

Still, that aside, in short this is like a dozen better-than-average but not quite great plays and is certainly worth a listen. Though — dagnabit! — as a sci-fi fan, I’m not sure I appreciate the digs at science fiction (one character is an actor who is basically supposed to have hit bottom because he’s contemplating a role in a SF series). Ah, well…

The “name” cast of familiar voices is definitely an appeal, although with a certain mix of styles. Nathan Lane (as the scheming Mizlansky) is loud and more farcical (and Rob Morrow’s gay assistant is a bit broad) while Richard Masur and Paul Sand (as Zilinsky) play it more grounded and subtle, as do Grant Shaud and Robert Walden. Kurtwood Smith is also in the cast (and maybe a bit broader, too). All are good but, as I say, maybe coming at it from different angles. (Funnily, I came across a review of a stage production of this with some of the same actors — but cast in different parts!)

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