Exit Stage Left is a web series by, for, and about theater people. This is not a knock on the project, just a point that needs to be made.

In my day job I deal with a fair number of people whose lives revolve around the stage. They’re driven like any other artists, but nearly all that I’ve befriended have that “theater tick”: everything, even the most banal of scenarios, has to be turned into a dramatic situation. It’s taxing, especially for someone outside the theater world who doesn’t know if/when you’re supposed to call Hamlet ‘The Scottish Play’.

Fortunately, though the atmosphere of Exit Stage Left is thick with that sort of constant melodrama, it is the only negative I’ve encountered. And, realistically, such an element should be viewed as necessary.

This new series is an account of the fictitious Lowry Theater Company and its attempts to stage a new, promising off-Broadway play, A Wonderful World. According to the show’s creator and director, Sinohui Hinojosa, the basic story involves the exploits of director Ronny Simons (Michael Navarra), a prodigal son of Broadway who has returned to theater after a stint in television.

We meet Simons in episode 1 during an awkward interview that reveals his would be “dream project” is so far little more than a series of headaches. Investor demands have forced him to cast a loony, lecherous actress (Annemarie MacLeod as “Terry Nichols”) for the lead while his fractious working relationship with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tim Haggard (Steve Budd) is beset by a power struggle over control of the script.

Haggard’s script, while based on one of his own acclaimed novels, isn’t even finished. Meanwhile, he seems more interested in getting any of the project’s attractive females’ panties on the floor than actually finishing said script. Budd, as Haggard, holds little back as the egotistical, aging writer whose heavy flirtations border on stomach-churning. It’s brilliantly disgusting.

Episode 2 introduces more of the cast during the play’s first table read. An already rocky beginning, thanks to the still-unfinished script, is exacerbated by the casting of a couple novice actors.

From what I gather, thespian culture is rampantly incestuous and Exit Stage Left‘s writers have made no attempt to hide this side of the industry. Aside from Simons, who is doing his best to remain cool and focused, it would appear that everyone involved with the production of A Wonderful World is trying to sleep with someone else in the cast or crew.

I’ll admit I’m not generally interested in this type of “soap-operatic” dramatic-comedy material, but the dialogue is strong and the actors have a great sense of the characters they’re portraying. This at least makes it an interesting watch for someone like me, and probably very entertaining for someone who gravitates toward such material.

The San Francisco-based company producing this show, Emerging Artist Productions, has garnered attention for some of their previous efforts and there’s a good possibility they’ll get a whole lot more given the first few installments of Exit Stage Left.

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