I Was Tom Cruise
nytheatre.com review by Robert Buckwalter
August 15, 2006
Frank and Paula are unhappy. They're unable to communicate with or understand each other, and their daily lives have become predictable. They exchange passive-aggressive jabs at one another until one day Paula exclaims in the heat of an argument, "you're the husband I never wanted to have." Frank, already feeling vulnerable, has a hard time recovering from that one.
I Was Tom Cruise, by Alexander Poe, begins with this mismatched couple's inevitable course of doom, and follows Frank's rebirth of sorts. But will his rebirth save him? And just how does Tom Cruise figure in Frank's search for a fulfilling, meaningful life? Redux Productions presents Poe's play and it is close to a masterpiece. It is a humorous and touchingly sober look at the trappings and pitfalls of celebrity, but more importantly, an examination of Cruise's avowal, "life is too short not to have everything you want."
On the way home from brunch at their usual, predictable spot, Frank and Paula encounter a film crew in the lobby of their building, prepping for a shoot. The film happens to star Tom Cruise. When Frank is mistaken for Cruise's stand-in and treated with the harried discourteousness of an assistant director and crew who are behind schedule, Cruise steps in to chill everyone out, demanding that they just relax. More important, he wants Frank to be treated with respect. After this chance encounter, Cruise befriends the couple and very shortly begins to see the discontent in their marriage. He then bonds with Frank, taking him to clubs and letting him see how stardom and the servility of women that comes with it can be intoxicating. Frank begins to understand that there is a life outside of his unhappy marriage. Now Cruise has Frank just where he wants him.
When Frank is introduced to Cruise's spiritual advisor, William Wilson, he is faced with a life-altering choice, although Wilson points out that, in fact, he has no choice at all. From here, the story begins taking unexpected turns that have the potential to spin wildly out of control, but Poe succeeds in keeping this a tightly evolving tale that keeps its eye on the ball and reminds us to be careful what we wish for.
The cast is, across the board, fantastic. Gideon Banner, as Frank, portrays a multi-layered, discontented lost soul who can't seem to find, or at times even know, what he's searching for. Victoria Haynes captures Paula's disappointment and frustration with a truthfulness that makes her sympathetic even when she is self-centered and nagging. Cormac Bluestone is hilarious as Frank's friend, Steve, a beer-and sports-loving dude in a business suit whose only ability to comfort Frank is through encouragements like "hang in there." And Amy Flanagan is convincing as Katie Holmes in her sweet and loving adoration for her man.
The show though, is Jeff Berg's as Cruise to make or break, and he more than makes it. He bares such an uncanny resemblance to Cruise (costumes by Poe and makeup by Elicia Picciuro) that, upon his entrance, the audience let out a collective gasp, as if wondering if it were Cruise himself. The physical likeness however, is just a start. Berg's embodiment of Cruise is just as uncanny. Berg does not do a caricature, but rather stellar character work! He captures the journey and arc of Poe's character with an eloquence and depth that, dare I say, Cruise himself might not be capable of.
Poe and Joseph Varca are the co-directors; sets are by Andrew Boyce.