Day One Entertainment produces its first original theatrical production curiously titled “The April Project” which debuted at CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks CA. With the story, performances and overall production, now the audience asks: what’s next?
It’s Saturday night April 28 and a line grows around the corner of CAP Theater. As you walk inside it feels many things at once: theater, family reunion, creative circus. And the ringleader is Van White. With an intimidating frame, but very welcoming smile Mr. White is a force of nature capturing enthusiasm, artsy and burgeoning businessman.
Moments before the show begins, White bounds on stage to explain the idea of the show. The April Project was a 30-day endeavor. Within the set time, a show would be written, cast, directed and performed in front of a paying crowd. Mission accomplished!
Writer Kristina Denton and Director Mario Kenyan are introduced on stage. Proud, yet humble. The words out of everyone’s mouth seem to be “We just really hope you enjoy the show.” And it begins!
The show’s tagline is “The Office meets “The Hangover”. As the narrative introduces each character, the Office theme is quickly apparent. Quirky characters mostly in their own worlds, but sharing the same office space. Some times they get along, but more often there is a varying level of civil unrest.
The curtains open to reveal Ellie Araiza‘s “April”, an office assistant, scrambling to start the day. Shortly thereafter each character arrives bringing their own tornado of psychosis into this no-man’s land of day job fluorescent lights, cubicles and white walls. Jay Blair‘s office creative “Jeff”, Michael Heiman‘s comically stagnant “Gus”, Johanna Watts‘ “Veronica” ripped right out of an evening soap opera, and Ashley Ledbedder‘s “Stacy” the perky HR who fits in at any office.
Fortunately for the cast, scribe Denton peels each layer of the onion slowly letting them grow into more and more as the near 120 minutes build. Fortunately for Denton, each cast member discovers enough quirks, deliveries and office angst to fill the moments in between. Running time was about 10 minutes too long, but the last 20 minutes were the best part as Denton wraps up each arc, with laughs and even a healthy wallop of character dazzle.
Stand-outs include Jay Blair who brought out a Jeff Daniels quality and seemed to find ways to channel both Dwight Scrute (from the Office TV series) as well as a Lego-sized Braveheart outcry just when we needed it most. His Girl Friday-styled motor mouth Johanna Watts seems to have double or even triple the dialogue of any other player based on the narrative device of a bluetooth headset permanently connected to her therapist (imagine that bill). But the hero of the show is Michael Heiman. I won’t ruin it for you, but two words: Keyser Soze. Unlock that mystery and you’ll understand the “Hangover” mention in the tagline.
Later at the after-party, White, his team and their party have basically taken oven the bar. Plenty of drinks and just as many smiles and hugs. White has plans of his own for “what’s next”, but hears pitches constantly… from other actors, writers, event producers, even competitor bar owners. Everyone seems to want his ear and hopefully his partnership. Is he stressed? “Naw man, I’m a Southern boy from Louisiana having fun. I’m just here meeting people and making art. Stuff I love. We’ll see what happens…”
Producer Van White is making his own opportunities. He’s an aspiring actor, which is all too common in this town. But he’s so much more, which helps him break the mold. He creates opportunities for himself and his creative co-conspirators, keeps finding money to finance the projects and keeps paying back his financiers virtually guaranteeing a “next project.”