BY TAFFY JAFFE
Are you a secret tabloid reader? Catch glimpses of the latest gossip on the supermarket line? Buy “national enquirer” when noone is looking? Have no fear, it’s safe to come out of the closet for The Tomkat Project, the detailed story of the relationship between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes from onset to demise. No more guilt you are no longer alone. You can sit with other voyeurs laughing together at every juicy morsel.
At first I thought we were going to see an exploration of our celebrity crazed culture. However, I think the writer/narrator Brandon Ogborn got too into the “snoop addiction” to question the larger picture. I must confess, though I did not start out as an addict, by the time I got home I had “snoop fever”. There is such a blurring of fact and fiction that I went from website to website trying to sort it all out. It’s an impossible task, for every convincing argument is countered with a strong rebuttal. Of course, I still think the Scientologists are mad. However, I can’t explain how so many supposedly sane people signed on, big time; giving up their money, their friends and relatives, signing on for total blind devotion. This show does not illuminate this either. What it does do in great style is entertain us for almost two hours.
I credit the director, Elly Green, with the fast pace and lively staging. Not such an easy task, given the empty stage, no real costumes, and seven actors portraying over fifty characters. The actors are a polished lot, looks like lots of experience in the world of improvising and sketch comedy. They each move from their chairs, the only things on stage, to plausibly portray a variety of characters in adddition to Katie and Tom; Oprah Winfrey (flawless by Brianna Butler), Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, etc. Timing counts and noone drops a ball. It’s a fast funny volley.
In the beginning the narrator informs us: “the following scenes are based on rumor, gossip……and lies.” So we are forewarned. However, from time to time a sign is held up “THIS IS VERBATIM DIALOGUE”. The real dialogue is more weird than any of the imagined parts. The first act lays the ground work for the story. It’s a lighter ride than act two, though still funny, shows us a darker side. The dangerous fallout by both Hollywood and Scientology can viciously ruin lives.
We are led to believe, I lost track of what was gossip, that Nicole Kidman lost her two adopted children to Scientology. Because she is not a devout believer, she is labeled an S.P., a suppressive person. Tom sues for divorce. Her children reportedly are given a course in identifying suppressive persons. Tom’s next love is Penelope Cruz. She says they can’t marry “because they have the same last name.” The scientology front man, David Miscavige also disapproves. She lacks faith and he sets out to find a pure scientologist. This is supposedly how Katie is discovered. She is a Catholic in a downward career trajectory, since her role in “Dawson’s Creek”. She could be thrust into stardom like Nicole. The user using the user. But, no such luck. Evil Miscavige, looks like a third wheel in their relationship. Here we broach the “don’t ask, don’t tell” subject of homosexuality. Is he or isn’t he? It depends on who’s swearing on what bible. Miscavige needs Tom’s money to expand the cause. Katie can not let her child be sacrificed and she leaves Tom. But, Tom is trapped. All his confessional scientology audits, have been secretly recorded and he could be ruined.
I can see how people get caught up in all this. It’s like the people who can’t miss their “stories” the soap operas that give respite from own’s own problems. Also, the celebrities are our royalty, and if they’re screwed up then maybe we don’t have it so bad. This show is worthy of an off broadway run. It was succesful in chicago where it played to sold out houses.
Now, I will indulge in airing a pet peeve. I am annoyed by both the NY Times and Howard Stern. Strange bedfellows, I know, but they have something in common. I have written to the times about several of their crossword puzzles. Fill in a five letter word for gossip, of course “yenta” is the answer. Howard Stern goes on and on calling women “yentas”, while he is the biggest exploiter of gossip. Somehow, the enthusiastic audience of TomKat’s gossip, did not appear to be all women or all Jews.