Time Out New York|
Reviewed by Jessica Branch
Behind all the attitude, bustier clad bimbos and-oh, yeah music, the real heart of rock & roll is a nerdy outcast who can't get laid. That's what makes William Bennett's comic satire, Corporate Rock, so darn endearing. It's got glitzy trappings, hot babes and even a wind machine, but its hero is an indie obsessed nebbish who's pushing 30 and still living with his mother.
An editorial grunt at Rolling Stone, rock purist Dylan (Travis York) undercuts his career hopes by pushing copy about unknown groups instead of paying homage to the pop icons who have sold out. But when Dylan overhears hotshot journo Nathaniel (Jamie Benge) being abducted by the French Mafia, he starts ghostwriting for him-until the kidnappers come back to see who's behind the byline.
A former reporter himself, Bennett has the inside scoop on the rag business and a sharp ear for righteous invective. But if you're neither an editorial assistant nor a music fan, relax: Anyone who has worked in an office or seen a music video will understand the issues-popularity, purity and the dream of fame. Director Timothy Haskell's use of a multilevel stage, Brechtian asides and wicked mock MTV choreography makes the most of the witty (if over plotted) script. And if there are times when the actors seem to be grooving to solo riffs rather than harmonizing, well, that's the point; everybody wants to be a rock star.
Bought, Commodified, and Sold Back to You for Your Viewing Pleasure
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Timothy Haskell's "Road House" gang is at it again, but this time they are out of the bar into the board room and they are fighting about music. The "Rock" plot is as old as time, Cain-and-Abel time. It's your classic high school drama, transplanted to the world of Rolling Stone. There is the unappreciated, unpublished copyeditor/nerd, Dylan (played by Travis York), whose elitist but obscure musical taste is roundly snubbed by Marcus, the Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone (played by Dorian Missick). Marcus much prefers his fair-haired-boy Nathaniel, played by Jamie Benge, a total sellout who has the street smarts to put "the silicone on the cover".
William Bennett has written a clever script with a simple, funny plot. Nathaniel, who is in gambling debt to the French mob, is kidnapped by two French mobsters: Jean Francois (played by Nick Arens), and Andre (played by Aaron Haskell). Jean-Francois and Andre are henchmen/sons of a French drug dealer named Marcellus, also played by Dorian Missick. Dylan witnesses the abduction and decides to use Nathaniel's disappearance as an opportunity to publish his own articles under Nathaniel's name. And as in all good stories, the plot simmers, thickens and boils its way to the end.
The great fun of Corporate Rock is in the telling. The story is directed in a MTV video style with highly campy scenes, flanked by video and blasted with rock. The fourth or fifth wall is continually broken with even the stagehands marching onstage to deliver special effects. Everyone has amazing timing, and the show works like a clock. The cast and crew are obviously having a blast, and so will you.
The very talented cast consists of Travis York, Dorian Missick, Gerry Diamond, Charles Jang, Natalia Hernandez, Jamie Benge, Aaron Haskell, Kellie Arens and Nick Arens. The rest of the rocking artistic team includes Paul Smithyman (sets), Nick Hohn (lights), Sarah Iams (costumes), DeeAnn Weir (fight choreography), Vincent Olivieri (sound) and Rebeca Ramirez (dance choreography).
Corporate Rock is a hoot of a show - it f'ing rocks. So go see it! You'll laugh your a** off. And you heard it here first.
Rocking Rolling Stone
Reviewed by JOSHUA TANZER
Set in the offices of a fictional Rolling Stone magazine, "Corporate Rock" is a very loose comedy about the pathetic state of mainstream music redeemed by some very funny screwball antics.
"It's better to burn out than to fade away," the house misfit mentions to the big boss at this fictionalized version of the Rolling Stone offices, and he's promptly told to quit quoting Hunter S. Thompson all the time. Thus has the onetime chronicle of the counterculture evolved to the MTV-ified present day.
Those who recognize the quote above (including most readers of this article, I hope) will also remember the other signature line from the same song: "Rock and roll will never die." Neil Young was probably in anthemic rather than ironic mode when he wrote those lyrics, or he might have foretold the actual death throes of rock and roll, which are what the show "Corporate Rock" is all about.
Over the top and under the top, overacted and underacted, ridiculously campy and occasionally earnest, William Bennett's play cranks out riff after comedic riff in the hopes that something in there will rock your world. Sometimes it does.
Dylan (Travis York), the misfit who is the magazine's last connection to the soul of rock and roll, squanders his days writing articles about bands with names like Underkill and the Knights Who Say Neat, which get filed away on the web site while the magazine's bigger names churn out repeated cover stories on Britney Spears and the plastic surgeons to the stars. (It's better to churn out than to fade away, you might say.) The closest thing he gets to a big break is the chance to edit the mag's star writer, Nathaniel Hunger (a permanently leering Jamie Benge), which actually means keeping him from falling out of his chair long enough to half-finish a piece of minimally publishable prose.
A cockamamie plot ensues in which something happens to make Nathaniel disappear, Dylan surreptitiously usurps his byline for the duration, and the whole thing is given a screwball wrapup involving a Russian call girl, French heavy-metal gangsters (huh?), and an argument about Def Leppard.
Whether any of this holds together as a convincing comedy, the play has a number of hilarious individual moments. Besides a few of Dylan's choicest pronouncements on the lame pop stars of the moment, there are several great visual gags (the handshakes alone are a hoot), and Aaron Haskell as a high-pitched white hip-hopper borders on the unintelligible but can be mad funny.
And somewhere behind the play's shenanigans is a message about the heat death of our cultural universe. The last time I read Rolling Stone was probably 18 years ago, when the likes of Phil Collins on the cover were already advertising the magazine's creeping irrelevance, so I can't say exactly how much more out of touch it may be today. But of course one magazine's failure of nerve doesn't mean rock and roll is really dead — today's Hendrixes and Cobains have just been pushed back under the radar where, perhaps, they belong. Today's rock
"Corporate Rock" isn't the most eloquent takedown of our tepid mass culture, but most of the audience walked away well entertained. From director Timothy Haskell and some of the other talents behind last year's self-explanatorily raucous hit "Road House: the stage version of the cinema classic that starred Patrick Swayze Except This One Stars Taimak from the 80's Cult Classic 'the Last Dragon' wearing a Blonde Mullet Wig," it's another anything-goes tag-team mélée of a play, only this time with less fighting and more arguing about whose favorite band sucks. In more subject-appropriate terms, it's a play with one part Frank Zappa to every two parts Dweezil.