Film Flam, Live Bait Theater. As an expose of the perils of independent filmmaking, Chicago playwright and Reader contributor Adam Langer’s Film Flam isn’t particularly incisive: the script’s hollow satire of the Hollywood cesspool of “bastards, whores, and sons of bitches” doesn’t mesh well with Langer’s imaginative, intricate tale of backstabbing and double-dealing. The filmic puns and references in the dialogue and in characters’ names lack subtlety, and the running jokes (involving absurd mixed drinks and bogus film titles) deflate with depressing regularity.
Film Flam follows idealistic young director Martin Coburn in his effort to find a distributor for his recently completed film. Hungry for exposure but repulsed by the prospect of losing his integrity, he finds an enthusiastic ally in screenwriter-movie executive Vivian Draper. But her cynical advice can’t prevent him from getting caught in a web of mind games and power struggles. Soon he’s being courted by a reptilian producer and a pair of affluent entrepreneurs eager to sink their talons into the next big thing.
Director Kay Martinovich maintains an appropriately fast and furious pace, and her staging makes good use of Robert G. Smith’s somewhat unwieldy set. The cast–led by Jim Donovan’s eccentric German entrepreneur Reinhold Meckler–is full of sparkling, comic performances. Film Flam is absorbing enough, but Langer’s crisp dialogue and perverse humor would have come off better with some careful editing and adjustments to the script’s structure. –Nick Green