After an 18-week sold-out run at the Playground Theater, one of the funniest shows of the year is headed to the New York International Fringe Festival next month. A biting, thought-provoking satire of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Scientology and our collective obsession with celebrity, "The TomKat Project" officially closed last month but returns for three Chicago performances Aug. 4-8 (more information at the-playground.com) before the production heads to New York.
"We got one of the biggest venues at the fest," said the show's writer and co-star Brandon Ogborn. "So they think we're going to do pretty well."
The Fringe Festival will be Aug. 9-25 at multiple venues; "TomKat" will play Aug. 20-24 at The Players Theatre (more information at fringenyc.org).
The show is generating early buzz, with a preview in the New York Daily News. "We're already selling seats," Ogborn said. "There's an interest in celebrities that I don't think will ever go away. And I think some of this is because of the PR disaster that's happening with Scientology right now. Ex-Scientologists are really into this show. One woman came into the dressing room afterward and was like, 'You guys have no idea how accurate this play is.'"
"TomKat," which earned a four-star review in the Tribune in March, works largely because of its bare-bones production values — seven actors and a script — and a core of seriousness despite the show's deeply comedic approach. "It is as if Susan Sontag were suddenly returned from the grave, only to find herself stuck with nothing to read but back issues of Us Weekly," I wrote in my review.
Ogborn, director Elly Green and the original cast all will be in New York; their fest appearance has the potential to become a career-making event, much as it was for Mindy Kaling in 2002, when her comedy "Matt & Ben" (about Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and the creation of their "Good Will Hunting" script) became the must-see show of the fest that year.
"TomKat" recreates the courtship, marriage and subsequent divorce of Cruise and Holmes as an academic study of celebrity behavior — all of it based on "rumor, gossip, hearsay, theory, fantasy, lies and when appropriate, the Internet," Ogborn says at the start of each show, a disclaimer that has likely saved the production from legal challenges thus far.
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