It would be amazing if Neil LaBute’s newest play were turned into a movie. That’s because “The Money Shot” should be available anytime to anyone who needs a good hard laugh. But it only plays the Lucille Lortel Theatre through Oct. 19 — so be sure to secure your ticket now for almost two hours of easily digestible, very memorable absurdity.
In this comedy, Steve (Fred Weller) is a Tom Cruise type who hasn’t had a box office hit in a few years. But he has the opportunity to helm an upcoming action flick alongside Karen (Elizabeth Reaser), a wannabe Gwyneth Paltrow who figures she’d still be relevant if she hadn’t come out of the closet. Fearing irrelevance, the two buy into a gimmick to have real sex while shooting the film, assuming people will pay big bucks to see two former sensations going at it.
Naturally, the narcissistic movie stars invite their significant others to dinner so that everyone can talk about logistics. (Yes, they are self-centered enough to hope the response will be, “Enjoy yourselves, pass the tapas!”) Steve’s wife Missy (Gia Crovatin) is a ditzy blonde who longs to be a leading lady but lacks the talent. Karen’s partner is Bev (Callie Thorne), a know-it-all athlete who has never been with a man and doesn’t understand the appeal. Hard lines are drawn while the pairs suss out what’s allowed, what’s off-limits and why they’re even still together.
The whole play is a springboard for lampooning every kind of Hollywood stereotype; it doesn’t break new ground, but it isn’t meant to be grounded. Like its characters, it has a lot to say but is never too deep. As the title would suggest, it’s also fairly graphic. And it’s a limit-pushing riot that keeps ramping up the ridiculousness every time you think you’re at an apex.
That’s the point: How do you keep outdoing yourself? Comedy becomes cartoon, sex icon turns porn star. “The Money Shot” wholly embodies its message of incessant artlessness, over-the-top antics and attention-seeking insecurity. If it ever hinted that it was taking itself seriously, the play would go from hilarious to derivative. But that only happens on cue, at the end, when “The Money Shot” hits its mark.
For more theater news and reviews, follow T. Michelle Murphy on Twitter: @TMichelleMurphy.