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Report From the Fringe: Underground Bunker Night at The TomKat Project

Brandon_Ogborn2

The Fringes of the Internet met the Fringe Festival NYC last night, and we have a few photos to make you wish you’d been there with us as we had the pleasure of meeting Brandon Ogborn (above) and the rest of his talented cast.

Even after reading Sindy Fagen’s reports about The TomKat Project when it initially burst upon the scene in Chicago last fall, we weren’t quite ready for how this brilliant production unfolds. We didn’t realize, for example, that Ogborn not only wrote this cutting examination of tabloid news culture and celebrity worship, but he also narrates it on stage — although “narrates” doesn’t really quite capture what he’s doing up there. Perhaps a better description is that he guides, cajoles, castigates, and ultimately upends the story as it’s happening.

And yet, Ogborn isn’t the star of his own production. The six other actors play a dizzying array of characters as they describe the weird triangular relationship of Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, and Scientology leader David Miscavige.

Julie Dahlinger has the mannerisms of Katie Holmes down pat as she acts out Katie’s rise from Toledo, Ohio to her heyday in Dawson’s Creek to meeting and marrying the man of her dreams — but only after she’s spent a mysterious 16 days hooked up to an e-meter. (Credit director Elly Green with some very creative staging to make this creepy and funny and sad all at the same time.)

 
Julie_Dahlinger_Brandon

Ogborn and Dahlinger met us last night with the rest of the crew for drinks after the performance — and our great thanks to producer Dein Sofley for finding us the back room of The Half Pint on short notice.

It gave us the opportunity to tell Walt Delaney what a tremendous job he does as Tom Cruise…

 
Walt_Delaney

At the outset of the play, Ogborn makes a joke about his cast members having no resemblance to the people they’re playing. But Delaney does such a good job channeling Cruise, we couldn’t help thinking he looked more and more like him as The TomKat Project unfolded.

Micah Sterenberg has one of the most difficult tasks playing David Miscavige, a man we know only through his bombastic public appearances issuing Shermanspeak from a podium. Rather than try to imitate that style, Sterenberg has his own take on Miscavige, and it’s a hoot.

Micah was shy last night, but here’s a good shot of him…

Micah_Sterenberg

 
Kevin Knickerbocker told us that for his impression of Katie’s father, Martin Holmes, he really had nothing to study from. But if Mr. Holmes is anything like Kevin’s portrayal, he’s someone we’d like to have a beer with. Kevin also comes up with a foul-mouthed Sumner Redstone and bewildered Steven Spielberg and about a half dozen other people he rapidly changes into before our eyes.

For impressions, it’s Brianna Baker who steals the show. Her Oprah is spot on and brings down the house. Her Nicole Kidman and Nazanin Boniadi sparkle, and she even gives us a glimpse of Penelope Cruz. But it’s her Bert Fields that was one of the great surprises of the night. She pulls it off with such cool confidence.

Another thing we didn’t see coming — Allison Yolo’s performance as Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, and the way she and Ogborn end up having a sort of tug of war over the meaning of the play as it nears the end. The satire on celebrity journalism here really took us by surprise and made for a dramatic high point in the production.

Perhaps in part because of our flogging the show, it was a sellout last night, and the actors told us they were thrilled at what a knowledgeable audience it was.

Delaney and Sterenberg, for example, told us that their opening scene, defining the friendship between Tom Cruise and David Miscavige, doesn’t always get laughs. But last night, many of us were howling — the jokes in that scene were hilarious for those of us who have been reading about this strange pair for a long time.

They knew they were in for a fun night when that happened, they told us. Quite a few members of the audience were Bunker readers, and some of them joined us last night at the Half Pint. For hours, after the cast moved on, we threw back beers and talked about the play. (And we may have teased a few upcoming features.) We took no photos and we will tell no names, the better to protect our loyal correspondents. (Though they may identify themselves in the comments, who knows.)

Thanks to everyone who showed up last night and put up with some funny requests from our Australian cameraman who needed a few shots for an upcoming TV story. And if you’re in New York, The TomKat Project has three more performances at the Player’s Theatre in the Village during the Fringe Festival. Catch it while you can!

 
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Michelle Stafford’s Strange New Scientologist-Filled Project

Roger Friedman over at Showbiz411 has a fun piece this morning about the odd new career direction for Michelle Stafford, a longtime Scientologist who recently ended her run on The Young and the Restless without much of an explanation for it.

She subsequently has put out a couple of web videos that make up a sort of reality show about herself, but as Friedman points out, everyone in it is also a member of the Church of Scientology. Here’s the first episode.

 

Let us know what you think.

 
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Karen de la Carriere Asks, What’s Scientology’s Most Dangerous Job?

Another interesting video from Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and Angry Gay Pope…

 

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on August 22, 2013 at 08:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

If you’d like to help support The Underground Bunker, please e-mail our webmaster Scott Pilutik at BunkerFund@tonyortega.org

 

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