Anyone just now coming of voting age may not even be aware of the traumatic events of 1998. They might not have learned of the devastating affair that nearly led to the impeachment of one of this country’s most popular presidents. Those who are older will never forget it.
So you might think a play titled “Hillary and Monica” would be a drama in which the former First Lady confronts her husband’s enterprising intern. Fortunately, playwrights Victor Bardack and Edward Michael Bell have written a hilarious comedy in which Hillary and Monica never appear.
It is nearly two decades after the fact and two one-time writing partners have reunited to collaborate on a new play that they are convinced will bring them fame and fortune. The impetuous and cocky Pete Raffelo (Rick Pasqualone) desperately needs the money. The rambunctious Ben Rose (Barry Pearl) is older and dreamier. He is an aficionado of classic lines and scenes from old movies and plays and he manages to insert them into his conversation, along with dramatic gestures, whether they are apropos or not. Sometimes they are even unfathomable, but always they are entertaining and laugh-provoking.
The funniest nonsense in this lively play comes early on, as Pete and Ben assume the identities of Hillary and Monica and start arguing over the potential setting for their meeting and their improvised dialogue. (At one point “Monica” tells Ben that he has a “retro-Roman sensibility.” Ben doesn’t know what that means, but he takes it as a compliment.) And of course most of the arguments end with Ben prancing around the stage singing “Stormy Weather.”
“Hillary and Monica” is set in Ben’s seedy apartment in New York, where the bathroom door doesn’t close and the furnishings are leftovers from his mother’s old apartment. He has embellished the place with such niceties as individual paper towels emblazoned with a fancy red R that everyone recognizes as having been swiped from the Radisson. Ben lives there with his girlfriend Tiffany (Rena Strober), who comes and goes unpredictably and at one time or another has slept with all the men in the play.
That includes Greg Goldfarb (Phil Morris), the lawyer that Pete summons to advise them on what they can say about Hillary and Monica without getting sued by everyone from the Clintons to the ACLU to the Anti-Defamation League. “But an assumption becomes a fact if a newspaper prints it,” Ben protests. “And our play will be historical fiction. Everybody’s had a blow job, it’s no big deal.”
Ben also has a fixation about his ex-wife, Shawna, who does not appear, but, like Tiffany, has also slept with all the men in the play. Distraught to hear this news, Ben shouts at Tiffany, “Everybody you screw is second-hand!”
There are also some very funny off-stage bathroom bits. In one of them Greg returns to the living room to announce that “last night’s enchiladas have spoken!”
The man who brings all this activity to life is famed director Joel Zwick, who has directed plays both on and off Broadway, some 650 television episodes, and the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
“Hillary and Monica”, having its world premiere as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, can be enjoyed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through June 12. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles. For reservations call (323) 960-7735 or online at www.plays411.com/hillary.