Morality seems to be in play this year. Remember those annoying AT&T commercial that picked on Verizon starring Luke Wilson? In Rob Ackerman’s Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson, we revisit those commercials, in quite a relevant way.
On a Brooklyn soundstage props best boy Rob (George Hampe) is rambling on as his mentor veteran special effects guy Ken (Dean Nolen) works. They are figuring out how to drop a hundreds of gum balls onto spokesperson Luke Wilson (Jonathan Sale). As Rob babbles on he is encouraged by Jenny (Reyna De Courcy) the props girl and is annoying assistant director/single mother Alice (Ann Harada) who’s child is sick. All are excited because legendary documentary director Errol Morris (David Wohl) is on helm for this piece.
When Luke Wilson shows up he is fat and outta shape, phoning in his two million dollar performance making the director annoyed. When Ken jinxes Rob after a perfect first take, he accidentally hits Luke with these super hard gum balls injuring him.
Rob who thinks he is done for, gets encouragement from Morris to hit him more stating ” he’s half-asleep, and he’s putting me to sleep. Then all-of-a-sudden something smacks him in the skull and wakes him up. Sweet Jesus, that was fun. I was bored, and now I’m not so bored. Why am I not so bored?”
Stunned Rob is at a crossroads. When Alice finds out she puts her foot down and stands up to the bullying director. She is demoted. As each take escalates the crew finds themself in the dilemma of needing the money, the work, bullying, what is entertainment, and when is it ok to tell the truth and have a moral boundary. In truth we all close our eyes to corporate injustice or for that matter what is not our agenda.
The play is directed by Theresa Rebeck in her New York directorial debut and it is superb. She gets the most out of this talented group of actors, all who are at the top of their game. I expect to see a lot of George Hampe in the near future, but all of these actors are perfection.
Ackerman’s dialogue is snide, insightful and whip smart. I also look forward to seeing more of his work.
Scenic designers Christopher & Justin Swader create a realistic soundstage with multi layered lighting by Mary Ellen Stebbins. Another standout is Bart Fassbender’s sound and music design.
Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson will make you think, challenge your opinions and make you glad theatre is alive and well. This show shines it’s light on hard facts and things that normally stay unspoken.
Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson: Working Theater at A.R.T./ New York Theatre’s Mezzanine Theater, second Floor, 502 W. 53rd St, through July 6th.