Bargains %amp; Blood (How To Succeed In Home Shopping!)
nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
August 14, 2009
It's often difficult to not judge a book by its cover—or a play by its title. At the New York International Fringe Festival it is easy to get swept up in the myriad crazy titles of the shows, and to let our expectations of how good a show should be based on its title go unchecked. Often such a process leaves us disappointed. Luckily for Bargains & Blood (How To Succeed In Home Shopping), the play lives up to its title, and we get exactly what we, er bargain for: bargains, and, well, blood.
The premise behind Bargains & Blood is simple enough—the business of home shopping is like any other business, and in order to get ahead you have to kill people. The story is also simple and well-known: Trailer Park Trash girl makes good, then gold, but only through nefarious means. The main character in this dark comedy, Lady Lay Day (played with aplomb by Tracey Gilbert), gets a shot at her lifelong dream of being a home shopping personality when a co-host who can't make her numbers offs herself. Turns out Lady's a natural, much to the chagrin of her co-host Patti Pucci (a rather frighteningly believable Lori Funk) who isn't quite ready to pass off the torch—or her man.
And, as with anything on television, what goes on behind the scenes is always more interesting than the program itself. In this case it's sex, drugs, violence (hence the blood), and a lot of stuff nobody needs but will buy anyway. The backdrop of a weakening economy only adds to the drama, and to the humor. The show claims there is laughter to be found in the recession, and indeed there is. The cast creates characters who, though it's impossible not to stereotype, are also impossible to not laugh at. The various quirks and ticks of the characters come through without blatant mockery of the very real people comprising the home shopping industry. Crystal, another home shopping personality played to the hilt by Laura Desmond, may be a ditz and a druggy but she's also hilarious. Dax Daxter and Guy Guyman, both brought to life by Sean Kenin, hover somewhere in between game show hosts and used car salesmen, but in a good way. Leslie Goshko cleans up the messes and fills in the gaps as everyone else in this mad, mad, televised world. The only things stranger than the people are the things they're trying to sell. Some of the creations may sound crazy, but anyone who's spent the wee hours of the night watching television can confirm such weird gadgets—and the people hawking them—really exist.
On a screen in the background the audience gets to enjoy some snippets of the home shopping stars hawking their wares (it's uncanny how realistic they are) while the stage serves as the stars' grounds for hooking up, breaking up, and everything in between. The actors have fun with and are comfortable with both mediums. The other production elements—lighting, sound, costumes, and props—serve them well as the show switches between recorded and live action.
Generally speaking, Bargains & Blood delivers what it asserts. There are bargains to be had, certainly. Fame is not one of them. As for blood, well, I can't really elaborate on that without spoiling the fun, but there's a fair amount of that, too. Ultimately, though, the show is a funny but accurate look at people whose very lives depend on selling themselves as much as any product, bargain or not.