The TomKat Project has literally no set, unless you count the six folding chairs on stage. Each of the actors has but a shopping bag of props, and even their performances are budgeted, with all six of them playing multiple roles. Yet, the fanfare of changing sets and costumes -- really, even the addition of more cast members -- would almost subtract from the stripped-down, witty electricity that makes Brandon Ogborn's play so brilliant.
The show assembles interviews, news reports, rumors, and (as Ogborn admits in the narrative introduction) "lies," to create a cohesive tableau of the TomKat saga. It is dripping with cynicism in regards to the media and the larger-than-life personas both stars have come to project, but it somehow manages to capture a sincere appreciation for celebrity theater.
As Ogborn said in an interview with nytheater.com, "Tom and Katie were both big figures from different parts of my childhood so when the story broke, I felt like my two best friends had divorced." Despite the absurdity of Cruise and Holmes' relationship (their Scientology wedding ceremony is likened to "Star Trek" in the play), it had a role in pop culture throughout its rise and fall, and Ogborn's appreciation for that is clear through his biting sarcasm.
The cast of six enacts the cohesive narrative as a total of more than 50 famous characters ranging from Oprah Winfrey to David Miscavige, whose interactions were cobbled from various sources (with a sign held up when "this dialogue is verbatim"). Most everything is depicted from Katie's doe-eyed (and occasionally ditzy) point of view. Yet, just as things seem ready to conclude in her victory, Ogborn breaks the fourth wall, and goes to battle with Maureen Orth, the special correspondent who hailed Holmes as hero, escaped from Tom's crutches. It is then that the events are flipped, rapidly reenacted with Katie as the villain, in a way that leaves the audience to question what the truth is (and even if it matters).
The TomKat Project is ultimately a commentary not only on Tom and Katie's relationship, but the nature of celebrity culture, the way the media covers it, and what the whole mess of things means for us as the consumer. Ogborn converts the fameball economy into witty banter, but leaves room for the breathless fascination that made him write the play in the first place.
The TomKat Project is participating in Fringe NYC at the Player's Theater on Thursday, August 22nd at 3:45, Friday, August 23rd at 9:45, and Saturday, August 24th at 3:15. More information about the show can be found here.
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