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Review: 'Day Trader' at Bootleg Theater

By David C. Nichols

7:00 PM EST, January 23, 2014

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In “Day Trader” at Bootleg Theater, a wannabe screenwriter in midlife crisis concocts an elaborate scheme to circumvent his rich wife’s pre-nup without sacrificing his cushy lifestyle or rebounding libido.

Further plot description would entail spoilers, because Eric Rudnick’s intriguing albeit quirky dark comic spin on the eternal clash between integrity and ambition in Hollywood has more twists than a Carmageddon reroute.

Under Steven Williford’s direction, the execution, punctuated by drum riffs from Josh Imlay, is most impressive. Designer Stephen Gifford’s stylized set could be installed at MOCA, effectively conjoined with the fine work of Jared A. Sayeg (lighting), Ivan Robles (sound), Michele Young (costumes) and Adam Flemming (projections).

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Although Danton Stone as antihero Ron has some unkempt transitions that suggest still-gelling beats, that isn’t inappropriate for a schlemiel, and Tim Meinelschmidt invests fellow aspiring scribe Phil with casual authority.

Murielle Zuker merges hard-edged oomph and clear sensitivity as the cocktail waitress/acting student at the center of Ron’s plan, while rising star Brighid Fleming mines considerable nuance from the mannered precocity of his adolescent daughter, who proves key to the enterprise.

Which brings us back to Rudnick’s script, undeniably clever yet pervasively self-aware, its contrivances at times threatening plausibility. The film noir aspects and postmodern humor don't easily coexist, and certain devices — the unseen spouse leaving daily Shakespeare quotes in Ron’s pocket, stock market self-help voice-overs by the intrepid Mo Gaffney — feel more about structural niceties than internal content.

Nevertheless, this glossy, entertaining fable of Hollywood hubris should provide rich dividends for the venue, even if its final destination seems, well, cinematic.

“Day Trader,” Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Ends Feb. 16. $25. (213) 389-3856 or www.bootlegtheater.org. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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