F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway spend an evening together in a place called The Garden Of Allah in Mark St. Germain’s Scott And Hem, an enjoyable bit of Hollywood nostalgia now getting a terrifically acted Falcon Theatre production under the snappy direction of Falcon favorite Dimitri Toscas.
The “Garden Of Allah” in question turns out to be a West Hollywood residential hotel where the Great Gatsby novelist has been ordered by MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer to put the finishing touches on a screen adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s Three Comrades circa 1937.
In order to insure that Scott (Thomas Owen) meets his deadline (and stays on the wagon), Mayer has sent over his leggy personal assistant Miss Eve Montaigne (Jackie Seiden), who’s none too happy when longtime Fitzgerald chum Ernest (Ty Mayberry) interrupts Scott’s labors for a visit. (Though Eve knows full well who Hemingway is, she insists upon calling him “Mr. Hemmings” just for the fun of it.)
Over the course of Scott And Hem’s brief running time (under seventy minutes on opening night), the pair of once inseparable friends relive memories of past debaucheries in dialog sparked with the most R-rated language I’ve heard on the Falcon stage.
Scott’s now institutionalized wife Zelda figures prominently in their stroll down memory lane as do insinuations of repressed same-sex longings on the part of one or both, along with the once best-selling novelists’ fears, not just that their finest work may be behind them, but that there may be no more novels inside them at all.
Numerous names get dropped along the way, William Faulkner, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker, and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas among them. (One of Scott And Hem’s funniest moments comes when Eve, the better to get Tallulah Bankhead in the swimming pool down below to shut up, invokes her position with Louis B. to Tallulah-quieting effect.)
Not all that much “happens” in Scott And Hem (though Edgar Landa has choreographed a nifty fight sequence involving flying fists, pieces of rigged furniture, and some homoerotic man-on-man body contact), and though dialog sometimes seems more fabricated than natural, how often do you get to spend quality time with a pair of literary greats?
Mayberry is everything you’d want a young Ernest Hemingway to be, edgily handsome, manly, and devil-may-care (at least on the surface), and if two fifths of scotch appear curiously to have little or no effect on Ernest’s speech and bearing, the sexy 30something stage vet nonetheless makes a dynamic Falcon debut.
Taking over the role of F. Scott Fitzgerald with just twenty-four hours advance notice, understudy Owen may not be quite the precise type to play the more delicately featured Scott, but his Opening Night performance went off without a hitch, the stage vet vanishing inside the novelist’s effete upper-class persona in terrific counterpoint to Mayberry’s rougher edged Ernest.
As for Seiden’s Eve, the glamorous triple-threat proves herself as adept in a play as she has been in musicals on Broadway and assorted Troubies shows at the Falcon. Slinky, sexy, and sensational, Seiden is everything a brainy femme fatale should be.
Scott And Hem looks fabulous on scenic designer François-Pierre Couture’s gorgeous Spanish-themed Garden Of Allah set, decorated to 1930s perfection by properties designer John M. McElveney and exquisitely lit by Nick McCord. (The shimmering reflections from the pool below are a particularly stunning touch.) Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound design is topnotch as well. (Note the voices carrying up from the pool.) Last but not least are David Kay Mickelsen’s costumes, period-perfect for the men, and if Seiden’s little black dress shows six inches more leg and clings a whole lot tighter than an actual 1937 woman’s would, who’s complaining?
Dale Alan Cooke is stage manager. Mike Jespersen is technical director. Sandi Logan, CSA is casting director. Chuck Saculla and Hannah Tamminen understudy Ernest and Eve.
I described playwright St. Germain’s The Best Of Enemies, a recent Colony Theatre hit, as “informative, illuminating, and entertaining in equal measure.” The same can be said for Scott And Hem, which though it may not pack the dramatic punch of that Ku Klux Klan leader-meets-black civil rights activist dramedy, it nonetheless offers Falcon Theater audiences some engaging Hollywood nostalgia at The Garden Of Allah.
Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.
October 23, 2105
Photos: Jill Mamey