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R U 4 Real !?!?

Susan Mele's Roxi Starr returns as a reality TV fame whore

Photo: JHA Photo, License: N/A

JHA Photo

Susan Mele (right) keeps it real with Dan Meyer.

R U 4 Real !?!?

Written by Susan Mele; directed by Gene Fouche

At Theatre Project Jan. 22 at 8 p.m.

Finally, somebody said it. And not just said it, but screamed it, threw it down our throats, crammed it in our faces: Reality TV sucks. Like, really sucks. And it’s taken over our living rooms and our cumulative American dreams and we’ve all been sucked into a stinking, clogged toilet of dressed-up prostitution and nickelodeon laughs.

Theatre Project’s modestly sized auditorium is the perfect setting for this creatively produced production. You’ve got the live action, performed on a set with little more than a couch and a piano, but you also get to see the show on “TV.” There’s a big, framed flat-screen at the focal point of the set, and a cameraman (Rob Schneider) follows R U 4 Real !?!?’s leading woman, capturing intrusive angles and less-than-flattering closeups of the heroine. She’s Roxi Starr—aka Susan Mele—playing herself, a woman desperate to let the world into Roxi’s world, to stop depriving them of the wonderland that is Roxi’s life. And she’s going to do so by getting on every reality TV show she can possibly force her way onto.

It begins, of course, with American Idol, because that’s where everything is, not where it all began but where it culminated, the epitome of what the collective American taste in television, art, and entertainment has come to be: a hand-wringing process of elimination that simultaneously makes us feel bad for being unmotivated losers and makes us feel good for not being the kind of shameless person who would prostitute herself for a little undeserved fame. Roxi is that kind of person, a woman who thinks she is everything but is really nothing more than a marginally talented, semi-attractive “lady” with the willingness to show her breasts and behind on TV as long as it leads her to that bit of fame to which she feels so entitled.

After she and her pianist/accompanist/only friend Dan Meyer (as himself) perform their hearts out on Idol, she goes on Wife Swap. We watch her post-show recap, in which she pulls her new husband Jeff from the audience—the first of a few audience members snagged in the atrium beforehand who come onstage and improv reactions to Roxi’s lines—and tells us all how Jeff’s pre-Swap wife was undersexing him.

And after Wife Swap, Roxi gets her own cooking show. She tells us we’ll be learning to “grill without a grill,” and we’ll be making chili-cheese dogs to demonstrate (yes, we: As she states toward the end of the show, she’s long since broken the fourth wall). This is where we first get a closeup of her cleavage, courtesy cameraman Rob’s zoom button. You’d think you couldn’t get lower than sticking a Ziploc baggie full of Hormel chili and jarred queso in your ass crack on live TV, but this is just the beginning for Roxi Starr.

Up next, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, because Roxi’s become addicted to electricity, straight from the wire—it gives her such a buzz—and then The Biggest Loser. She’s fat and dressed in some outlandish colorful kimono and pulling Twinkies out of her breasts—there they are on that TV screen again—and trying to eat poor Rob’s arm because she’s just so damn hungry. Catching up with her a year later, in stage time, she’s lost a bunch of weight and finally reached her goal, that reality TV mountaintop, the golden egg: a spot on Dancing With the Stars, her big break, which, of course, she botches.

Down and down she goes into self loathing, a now middle-aged woman who’s accomplished nothing and has no one left but Dan and her cameraman, and she’s been beaten by this race to the limelight. If you want to take anything serious away from this production, directed by Gene Fouche, think of that TV screen as a mirror: We’ll all be beaten too. And you should take this message seriously, because though this show is a drunken stumble of a mess and a wildly fun ride to the bottom, you have to admit she’s right.

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