Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pollywood Author's New Play Focuses on the Tumultuous Life and Times of Legendary Hollywood Movie Mogul Louis B. Mayer

A decidedly declassified dispatch … The world must know about this! Stop the digital press! … from our man in Manhattan, André Pachter.

Read on. 

NEW YORK, May 16 --- Broadway was shaken … not stirred … last Friday night by a theatrical event that demands attention. The positively brilliant, unbelievably multitalented … he always seems to be writing, producing, directing … something … somewhere … Polish-American filmmaker, author and all-around creative genius Andrzej Krakowski unveiled a new play that promises, practically guarantees, to be a hit on every stage … here, there, everywhere … wherever people are endlessly fascinated by America's greatest commercial gift to the world … the motion picture industry …  commonly called Hollywood. Which is to say, at the very least, audiences across all of North America and Europe. 

Simply put, Krakowski's new play, which came to us, humbly, as a stage reading at the Directors Company Theater, with the intriguing working title of Mayer & Co., is a masterpiece that cries out for immediate production … and adaptation. Really. Mayer & Co.,  which Krakowski directed and co-authored with Michal Komar,  is clearly the stuff … a tour de force dramedy ... from which great movies … the kind that Krakowski has long been associated with … are made. Great movies and Broadway musicals. One can almost hear the songs before they are written.

A triumph of the spirit--Krakowski fans will appreciate the phrase--Mayer & Co. tells the story of the men who came from nowhere to build an industry from nothing. It could even be said that for the most part they came from less than nothing. So poor were they, this impossibly hard-working, smart … and lucky … band of immigrants who built chains of "picture palaces" and entire factories … from scratch … studios, they named these massive complexes in sunny California … for the exhibition and production of … dreams … celluloid depictions of fantasy and reality that entertained, inspired, and encouraged generations of movie-goers … lifting the spirits of newcomers and natives alike, uniting them, enlightening them, educating them, teaching them, especially, after the advent of sound, how to talk, dress, eat, dance, drive a car, smoke a cigarette, mix a martini, look cool, throw a punch, be sexy, stand up for what's good and right and decent … while … always … and this is key to understanding these dream merchants …  appreciating the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Ten Commandments, the whole way of life that in their eyes was only possible for their kind and others like them in The Golden Land … America! 

Fact is, the melting pot would probably have never happened without the men who made Hollywood.

Interestingly, they were all Jewish; even more interestingly, they nearly all came from one corner of the Jewish world, Poland when it was part of the Russian Empire. One of these men, the subject of Krakowski's play, was Louis B. Mayer, born Lazar Meir (maybe) … the man from Minsk (maybe) … the Mayer in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (certainly, even though, contrary to popular perceptions, he never owned a single share of stock in the firm) … who, like the other pioneering moguls and producers, was a master of reinvention, a worshipper of the American Dream, above all, an immigrant who made it big … really big … in a big, rough-and-tumble country that celebrated wealth and success, regardless of who made it and how it was made, to an extent that was unimaginable in The Old Country.

Krakowski has mined this material before. Pollywood, his nonfiction take on the Jews who built Hollywood, is a critically acclaimed bestseller in his native Poland. In Mayer & Co. the focus is on Louis B. Mayer … everyone always called him Louis B. Mayer, or, simply, LB … and the premise is an imagined behind-the-scenes look at production of a newsreel tribute to the man … he died of leukemia in 1957 …. featuring recollections by Samuel Goldwyn and Jack Warner.

More than that should not/need not be disclosed at this time. Suffice it to say, the dialogue is pure Krakowski … rapid-fire exchanges akin to Mamet Speak … words that translate into action … an emotional roller coaster that will make you laugh, think, marvel and maybe, even, cry a little. Krakowski has the uncanny ability to pull you into the world he creates without ever breaking the fourth wall illusion. He entertains … and elevates … and, in the process, engages the observer in ways that defy description, at least, to this reporter, an unabashed fan.

Lubitsch had his world famous touch, that delightful device, or special nuance, that said so much with seemingly so little effort. Krakowski, too, has a touch, one that he has most assuredly applied to Mayer & Co.

CREDITS: Mayer & Co. by Andrzej Krakowski & Michał Komar.

      (Based on the book Pollywood by Andrzej Krakowski)

   The Cast:
       Samuel Goldwyn – David Little
       Jack Warner – David Deblinger
       Editor – Arturo Castro
       Producer – Marie Guinier
       Narrator – Dale Spencer Weeks

                                       Directed by Andrzej Krakowski
               Casting: Ellyn Marshall-Long & Maria E. Nelson/Orpheus Group
                                       Produced by: Majka Elczewska