LA TRIBUNE/Coastal Community Newspapers, April 30, 1998
Written by Duncan Elkinson.
Fatal Choices and False Values in BOILER ROOM
Santa Monica novelist and playwright Dan Fante has put a slice of the sleazy and seedy subterranean world of telemarketing under the dramatists microscope and held up Boiler Room for all to see. Directed by Jolene Adams and acted by a talented ensemble at Actors Art Theatre, Boiler Room is a rousing success for all concerned - all except the telemarketers.
Dan Fante, a forty-something wordsmith, is an L.A native, the son of a screenwriter and a keen observer of the deviant condition. He draws heavily on his own experiences as a phoner, sales trainer, and scamp to give Boiler Room its ring of authenticity. Multiple concurrent conversations, caffeine-induced psychosis and syrupy insincerity are only three of the phonebook of ways that Fante uses in the first act to make us feel as if we are part of the phone room's hype and hypertension.
The dialogue is pure bravura fine-tuned by Fante's trained ear for wit and sarcasm. Boiler Room is Fante's first play. He has two novels published in French that have been well received by the Paris press. His first novel to be published in the states is entitled Chump Change, and is available from Sun Dog Press.
Young Jolene Adams has directed, orchestrated, and even choreographed Boiler Room to a high standard. We blitz through six scenes in the first act that are seamlessly woven together by Adams' deft stitchery. The action of the play moves from the sales room to the owner's office to the obligatory coffee lounge with such alacrity that we don't realize the scene is changing. The director has given her cast a high tech set and fancy footwork as the only props in this piece of theatre of the imagination. Adams is a veteran of over twenty-five productions. She, also an actress and producer, moved Actors Art Theatre to L.A. from New York in 1993.
Each of Boiler Room's seven cast members is a star in this production. Fante has given them a tour de force for ensemble acting and they have risen to the challenge. Jimmie F. Skaggs is strong and powerful as Dallas, the sales manager who pumps up the troops and hides the bodies. Winsome Adelaide Vaughn is sexy and slinky as Judy, the boss' leading lady. Frank Uzzolino shines as Frankie Freebase, a strung-out phoner with dreams. Marty Levy is beyond sleazy as Doc, a phoner with a big secret. Susan Ziegler is a class act as Nancy, a graduate student with a lot of questions. Young Phinneas Kiyomura is effective as Jeff, a new recruit whose conscience is the soul of the play.
By far, the strongest performance is turned in by Douglas Coler as Eddy Kammegian, the owner and master motivator/manipulator of the phone room. Coler plays Eddy as one part sales guru, one part 12 step apostle, one part wounded inner child, one part horndog, and three parts egomaniac. It is a recipe for a successful portrayal of an unsuccessful life. Coler's Eddy is the man we love to hate. He is a victim we want to punish. He is an abuser who is ultimately abused. Such a multidimensional performance is the stuff of which careers are made.
Coler's Eddy takes us into the world of 1980's style greed and 1990's style moral morass. Eddy represents all of us who kneel at the altar of the false gods of greed, sex, and power. His downfall is the requiem for all of us who have made fatal choices and carried false values. As Eddy himself says, "Baby, the only problem with instant gratification is it's not fast enough!"