Catch the Fish
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
August 18, 2007
In the penultimate scene of Catch the Fish, where the four characters in a reporter's hotel room are getting drunk, high, aroused, and confrontational, Hollywood nightclubber and son-of-privilege Grant Speilman begins, "I live in a town..." His "pretend girlfriend" Lindsay Sands finishes the sentence: "...where you get ahead by being an asshole."
Written by Jonathan Caren in reaction to Nancy Jo Sales's Vanity Fair article "Rich, Jaded, and Lost in L.A." about Caren's fast-living, bar-hopping crowd of Hollywood spawn, Catch the Fish seeks to show the substance, angst, and truth beneath the slick surface. The three young blue-tongued twentysomethings and the 40-ish New York reporter who seeks their story are caught between wanting to become real, and donning the glitzy, blasé, "cool" personas that would guarantee them material, social, and sexual success. In fact, characters this complicated may need more than a one-act play—two-act? film? novel?—to present them fully and clearly. Not to say that this play isn't already gripping, involving, and intriguing.
Vanity Fair reporter Alison Vanpelt (Elyse Mirto) arrives at a Los Angeles bar where she meets Jordan Limpsky (John Forest) and Grant Speilman (Dov Tiefenbach). Grant appears a slick, cool know-it-all, seen-it-all, and Jordan his plainer, more sensitive friend, who recently lost weight and whose violent outbursts get him into trouble. Alison and Jordan flirt right away, and soon Alison is blurring the line between research and genuine attraction.
Grant's constant companion is Lindsay Sands (Zibby Allen), a lithe blonde whose athletic past belies her Paris Hiltonesque present. Bossy and glib, Lindsay desires meaningful work ("I want to go to Europe; they have real jobs, like blacksmiths and cobblers there"), and complains about her shallow image ("I walk into the SPCA and they laugh!"). She wonders about doing the Malibu bikini shoot for Maxim which she gained through "casting couch" favors ("Do I want to be forever this girl in Maxim, to be an object they jack off to?") Meanwhile, Alison and Jordan grow closer, but when Alison learns about Grant's famous father, she is ecstatic about journalistically reeling in the big catch.
Directed by Kristin Hanggi, all four actors turn in excellent work, although sometimes they speak too softly. Allen in particular shines, as Caren gives her character many of the play's best lines. In a powerful scene where Grant and Lindsay examine their relationship, Grant declares he wants the same favors Lindsay gave the Maxim guy, the same favors Lindsay at age 13 accidentally saw her father receive from a "whore" in his office. "But then you'd be like everyone else to me," Lindsay protests to her friend. "You're the only one who doesn't treat me like a dumb blonde." Later she says that Grant "is a nice guy, and he wants to be this big Hollywood asshole. He wants to inspire fear."
Catch the Fish's exploration of perspective and publicity, of conflicting longings, may be too much to catch in one sitting; I viewed it twice because the show started too late one night and had to cut its final scene. From what I saw, I couldn't blame Sales if she wrote up this group as a bunch of privileged jaded jerks, but nor could I blame Caren for wanting to reveal the layers of reality beneath the jerkiness.