Poster by LaurenDesign

Front: Michelle Philippe & Patrick Towne
Back: John Sylvain & Andrew Friedman

August 14 - September 13, 1997

A play within a play, this hysterical story follows the ups and downs of egomaniacal director Nicholas DeBeaubien as he attempts to bring to the stage the ultimate version of Hugo's classic tale of unrequited love. Jumping back and forth between the backstage lives of DeBeaubien's unfortunate cast and the roles they play, the story of Quasimodo is played out in several styles; ranging from the CABARET style of the Wiemar Republic to Sci Fi style of sixty's television.


Patrick Towne - Nicholas / Phoebus
Andrew Friedman  - Jackie / Quasimodo
Michelle Philippe  - Laura / Esmeralda
John Sylvain  - Ward / Frollo
and Joel Zighelboim as

The Phantom of The Heliotrope

Produced for Sacred Fools by Jonathan Goldstein
Written by Larry Larson, Eddie Levi Lee,

Rebecca Wackler and John Kohler
Directed by Adam Bitterman
Assistant Director - Phil LaMarr
Musical Direction by Gene Lushtak
Costume Design by Perry Ash
Lighting Design by John Sylvain
Sound Design by Gene Lushtak
Original Score by Joel Zighelboim and
Gene Lushtak
Production Stage Manager - Stacy Warner
Graphic Design - Stacey Lauren / Lauren Design

99photos2.gif (5173 bytes)

  Michelle Philippe
& Patrick Towne

  Michelle Philippe & John Sylvain


99reviews2.gif (5135 bytes)


The recipe of using a play within a play to tell a more detailed story or comment on the production itself is tried and true. Look at Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Michael Frayn's Noises Off, David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre, Ronald Harwood's The Dresser, and recently Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo, just to name a few. Using this device, an opportunity for humor, biting witticisms and comedic insight is possible. Plus, anything usually goes.

Well, there's a new play-within-a-play to add to the list, and though there are times in Nicholas DeBeaubien's Hunchback of Notre Dame where the action drags just a bit, this is nevertheless a fresh, witty, biting and truly hysterical play that is delivered flawlessly by one of the most talented groups of actors/comedians this reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing in quite some time.
Director Adam Bitterman in press release material is quoted as saying, "Never before has one man destroyed such an immortal classic so quickly and so completely." Actually, we should credit this "destruction" to four extremely talented writers: Larry Larson, Eddie Levi Lee, Rebecca Wackler and John Kohler. Director Bitterman and his talented ensemble no doubt contributed more than a few ideas as well -- but we'll get to them in a minute.

First the play... and the play. Without giving too much away, playwright Nicholas DeBeaubien greets us and immediately breaks the fourth wall, talking straight to us and letting us know that this is "the people's theatre" amd we are all responsible for the production we are about to see. DeBeaubien,a struggling playwright/director/actor, is desperately trying to come up with a fresh, possibly politically strirring take on Victor Hugo's classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After the intial scene of a classic Hunchback staging, he comes up woith such off-the-wall takes as setting his production on the Notre Dame football field, with Quasimodo as one of ther football team's heroes and Esemralda a spirited, flirtatious cheerleader. The second act shows Esmeralda as a cabaret singer (a la Cabaret) and Quasimodo, another cabaret performer whose bell-ringing act is an absolute stroke of genius and a true showstopper. The play and the play-within-the-play both rush to unexpected, wacky, and eventually hysterical conclusions.

And this is a dream cast. Four talents that can do everything and then some. Patrick Towne plays Nicholas DeBeaubien (and Phoebus) with an artistically maniacal air that is right on. Michelle Philippe plays Laura (and Esmeralda) with dangerously sympathetic strength; just when you think you know her, she shows another shade. John Sylvain plays Ward (and Father Frollo) with expert timing; he's a charmer who knows how to get a laugh out of every line. And Andrew Friedman as Jackie (and Quasimodo) is a comedic gem -- jaded and sarcastic, but willing to do anything... and he does. Joel Zighelboim contributes much as the Phantom of the Heliotrope, providing live music and sound effects from his perch above the action. On to the production staff, who are equally talented. An across-the-board attention to detail is a rare find in small theatre where the struggle to keep costs low but production values high is oftentimes overwhelming. John Sylvain's lighting design is fun; Perry Ash's costumes are fantastic (the costumes, at times, becoming characters themselves); Lita Roth's props fill the stage and Corinne Robinson's artsitic stage graphics help us with time and location. The original score by Zighelboim and Gene Lushtak is as unique as the production itself.

Enough raving and rehashing of plot and detail; we don't want to give any more away. Just go see Nicholas DeBeaubien's Hunchback of Notre Dame -- you simply won't want to miss it.

- Amy Schaumburg
1997 DramaLogue


Although this collaboratively penned play-within-a-play is billed as being about the "responsibility of literary interpretation," as well as being a "biting lampoon on 'serious artist' types," it comes off as a clever spoof of really awful plays. In Act I, Nicholas DeBeaubien (Patrick Towne), an overwrought playwright obsessed with writing the definitive interpretation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, introduces himself to the audience and explains his vision. Then for the next two hours, almost every interpretation -- from sci-fi to Andy Hardy -- is hilariously performed by four actors. All play their "scenes" wallowing in corniness, juxtaposed by backstage moments which show the thespians' "real life" problems. Ward (John Sylvain doubling as Father Apollo) is a gay hypochondriac; Jackie (Andrew Friedman doubling as Quasimodo) really does have a hunchback; and Laura (Michelle Philippe doubling as Esmeralda) is an ambitious New Ager.

The company gives convincing portrayals while playwrights Eddie Levi Lee, Rebecca Wackler and Larry Larson fearlessly poke fun at all aspects of stage production, and fill their play with running gags. For instance, no one ever gets kissed; just as lips are puckered, the play is interrupted. Adam Bitterman's free-form direction works well with the anarchistic concept, though some people might be put off by the insider theater jokes.

- Diedre Johnson
1997 LA Weekly


award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) PRODUCTION - Jonathan L. Goldstein
award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) DIRECTION - Adam Bitterman

award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) ENSEMBLE - Patrick Towne, Andrew Friedman,
John Sylvain and Michelle Philippe

award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) COSTUME DESIGN - Perry Ash
award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) LIGHTING DESIGN - John Sylvain
award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) SOUND DESIGN - Gene Lushtak