The holiday farce "No Reservations" is premiering at the Adrienne. Credit: Plate 3 Photography
Thanks to social media, Josh Piven’s play satirizing social media has already sold out its opening night performance next week.
“The buzz from social media — Twitter, Facebook, bloggers — has really been huge,” the first-time playwright says. “There is definitely an irony here.”
Piven may be new to the theater world, but he has plenty of practice promoting his work as the author of the hugely successful “Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” series. All told, Piven, a Philly native, has more than 20 humor and nonfiction books under his belt, plus a “Worst-Case” spinoff TV series and a couple of as-yet-unpublished novels. His day job is as speechwriter at the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater.
Piven is tackling a different kind of performance with “No Reservations,” a loose retelling of the nativity story he’s describing as a madcap holiday comedy “in the British tradition of classic farce.”
The show is from the point of view of the innkeepers. Mr. and Mrs. Harris, proprietors of the Speckled Partridge, are expecting a quiet Christmas weekend — until a very famous, very pregnant young singer calling herself Marie shows up on her way to Bethlehem. Scheming Mrs. Harris, facing an underwater mortgage and looking for a “savior,” starts cooking up ways to make a quick buck off the hiding celeb. Her first action is to — what else? — start posting pics on Twitter and Facebook.
“It explodes into this mass social media thing — it’s part of the cult of celebrity, with all these people trying to jockey for advantage,” Piven says. “If a Christ figure came today, there’d be some reality TV producer trying to capitalize on it.”
Learning the ropes
The cast of 11 — the innkeepers, carolers, a reporter, an “American Idol” winner and others — features some Philly theater regulars, acting under the guidance of Allison Heishman of Azuka Theatre. Alongside Heishman, Piven got a crash course in theater.
“My only experience in the past was being in the audience,” Piven says. “When I first met with Allison she said, ‘We have good news and bad news. The good news is we have full creative control — and the bad news is the same thing.”