Zoetic Stage opened the world premiere production of Michael McKeever’s Clark Gable Slept Here at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Arts on March 20, 2014.
As one of the silver screen's brightest stars charms his way through the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, his staff tries to figure out what to do with the dead male prostitute on his bedroom floor. South Florida favorite Michael McKeever takes a look behind the closed doors of the Hollywood elite, and presents a jet-black satire on what it means to be a "man" in the make-believe world of motion pictures, where nothing is ever what it seems and closets are used for so much more than hanging up your Tom Ford tuxedo.
Stuart Meltzer directed a cast that featured Michael McKeever, Lela Elam, Clay Cartland, Vanessa Elise, and Robert Johnson.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Death, drug overdose, murder, lies, hypocrisy, soulless creatures willing to do absolutely anything for greed and glamour – you really shouldn’t be laughing this much or this hard. But after all, it’s Hollywood. Specifically it’s Michael McKeever’s Hollywood in his hilarious new play Clark Gable Slept Here getting its world premiere at Zoetic Stage in that other Never Neverland, Miami.
…this is such a rollicking ride under Stuart Meltzer’s direction that even the actors were struggling not to crack up on opening night. Well, if they hadn’t been giving such pitch perfect comic performances, maybe they could have kept a straight face.
Lela Elam brings a queenly but street smart mien to the ultra-practical fixer whose carefully coiffed appearance barely disguises the moral compass of a shark… a glorious monster who is unashamedly immoral, not amoral.
For years, we’ve been trying vainly to explain or describe what Clay Cartland does specifically to make such hapless characters as the hotel manager so human and hilarious at the same time. As the resident straight man, he gets insufficient credit for the deft set-ups to others’ jokes and the pained reaction that makes him the only decent person in the room.
Vanessa Elise’s Estella happily satirizes and exploits stereotypes with a character who is, like everything else here, more than she appears.
There is one character who makes a surprise entrance, turning everything upside down. The performer will have to forgive us not naming them to avoid a spoiler, but suffice it to say that their performance is as funny and competently executed as the others.
As always, Zoetic keeps upping the bar for set design and properties thanks to Robert F. Wolin’s stylish ultra-modern Hollywood glam bedroom with sex toys and other accoutrements found by Jodi Dellaventura.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
McKeever’s dark comedy, the fifth world premiere from Miami’s still-young Zoetic Stage, skewers all sorts of Hollywood phoniness, from closeted stars to touching life stories borrowed from movie plots. Wildly funny and comically horrifying, the play is carefully crafted to reveal surprise after surprise, as if it were the theatrical equivalent of Botoxed Russian nesting dolls.
Zoetic, which presents its shows in the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater, draws from a deep well of South Florida talent in casting its shows…
The cast really does function beautifully as an ensemble, but Elam, looking ultra glam in a figure-hugging red gown and glittering heels, dominates the action when it’s Morgan’s turn to problem-solve. Performing a part that was written for her, the Carbonell-winning actress uses an array of artistic weaponry — dangerous seductiveness, razor-sharp comic timing, a commanding presence — to add another memorable performance to her body of work. And that, unlike the puffed-up Hollywood phoniness Clark Gable so deftly punctures, is for real.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
This is Michael McKeever writing and acting at his witty, cynical best. Laugh a minute? Oh, yes, and then some.
The hysterically funny Vanessa Elise is the maid who finds the body and who speaks no English and who gets screams of laughter every time she’s on the stage and thank goodness, she’s on a lot.
Clay Cartland… (is) Nervous Nellie personified; you should see him with a penis is his hand. Relax, it’s rubber. His physicality as the rigid manager is a comic delight.
If you don’t know McKeever, you should. You’re missing a man of extraordinary talent, and he’s wonderfully at home in this role he wrote for himself. The perfect man as the Hollywood insider, elegantly tuxedoed for the awards’ night, master of the the quips and the silences.Lela Elam… gorgeously explodes around the penthouse in a bright red dress, top heavy with diamonds, the snake eyed cleaner.
So sure, I loved the cast, loved the writing, loved Stuart Meltzer’s direction. And even the last couple of minutes when a touch of morality slipped into this really funny ninety minute one act.
John Thomason wrote for The Miami New Times:
Director Stuart Meltzer keeps McKeever's words flowing at a rapid patter evocative of the period in which Clark Gable found gainful employment… The action slows only when paroxysms of laughter would have drowned out the next line, or when Meltzer wisely inserts a moment of silence to milk a great line for all of its comic potency.
…while McKeever's words reflect a pop-savvy understanding of today's Hollywood, the rest of the show suggests the madcap spirit of yesteryear. As in those classic comedies, the characters are characters, more archetypes than people, played broadly and hilariously by a perfectly curated cast.
Cartland's comic timing is peerless as usual, whether he's coming into incidental contact with a dildo or trying to explain away a gunshot to his hotel staff. It never feels calculated, and it is always inspired
Then there's Lela Elam, statuesque and busting out of a vivid red dress and glittery high-heels, as Morgan Wright, …another larger-than-life figure, an almost mythical personification of Hollywood self-importance and superficiality... In another role, her dramatic gestures would chew scenery and artificially overpower the action. Here, in a town that's fundamentally artificial, she's its grounding centerpiece.
But the show's biggest surprise is Vanessa Elise, a New World graduate and an actor who's relatively unknown on the South Florida theater scene. If this performance is any indication, she won't remain so for very long. Her maid's rambling, Spanish-language descriptions of discovering the prostitute's body received the evening's loudest eruptions of laughter. The nuances flew over my unilingual head, but Elise's talent for physical comedy — for the perfect gesture and facial expression at the perfect time — transcends language.
For those of us aware that the Dream Factory is just that, none of the points raised in Clark Gable Slept Here will feel like a revelation. But the play is so beautifully articulated that I wouldn't mind experiencing the whole thing again and savoring lines such as this one, Jarrod's description of Zane's airheaded wife: "She's like a shampoo commercial, without the depth."