By Mark Wilk
Jen & Angie is an extended piece of droll, delightful sketch comedy that explores the “what if” scenario of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie trapped together on a desert island.
Authors Laura Buchholz and Christina Casa play the ‘Jen’ and ‘Angie’ of the title as complete caricatures, sparring with each other through the inevitable arguments about Brad Pitt, fame, celebrity, children and all of the provocative issues in which the gossip hungry American public would delight, given the chance to eavesdrop.
After a hilarious opening – a cinematic montage featuring blissful images of Jennifer and Brad Pitt to the song “The Way We Were” which is then usurped by “Welcome to the Jungle” and pictures of Angelina and Brad together – my heart sank just a little when I realized that the two actresses were going to play the show like a “SNL” sketch and not as a straight play. Surely, there is enough material in the lives of Aniston and Jolie to take up many, many hours. But good comedy has a way of making one forget initial expectations and disappointments … laughter is curative and, happily for me, this is very funny sketch comedy.
Angelina teaches Jen how to easily slaughter island marmots for food, places sunscreen on a comatose Brad Pitt (portrayed by a dummy) and confesses her dislike of the film Benjamin Button. Jennifer Aniston invokes a twisted version of the “Friends” theme song, “I’ll be there for me,” to calm herself in moments of crises, periodically muses as to what Courtney (Cox) would do in her situation and does her best to absorb Angelina’s jibes and jabs. The dialogue is clever. A favorite line, spoken by Angie to Jen, musing about their independence: “You’re an island, and so am I … hmm, two islands on an island.” Another funny moment – when Jen asks Angie why Brad won’t talk to her, Angie’s reply: “No, he can’t. He’s under my spell.”
Christina Casa is a true comedic talent and the inspiration of this show. Her portrayal of Angelina Jolie as a super self-absorbed and indulgent black magic woman channels Rachel Dratch in her funniest moments on “SNL” and on “30 Rock.” Her confidence and stage command reveal her as a natural comedienne, fully immersed in her character and confident in her comedic choices.
The same cannot be said of her co-star, however. Laura Buchholz, superb as a writer, lacks both the stage presence and comic timing needed to release the inherent hilarity of her dialogue. Her portrayal of Jennifer Aniston as a narcissistic wreck who’s overwhelmed by insecurity, has the potential to be zany, charming and endearing all at once, but her delivery is fumbling and uncertain. She is tentative and precariously shifts about, unsure of how to handle herself on stage. As a result, the attention shifts to her laugh-landing co star, transforming the show from a collaborative effort into more of a one-woman showcase.
There are some annoying minor flaws, as well. With some unimaginative sets and poorly timed scene-changes, there’s little technical expertise to be gleaned from Jen & Angie, and a poorly choreographed fight-sequence (of course there’s one in a play about Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie) brings a grimace where there should be laughter. Director Susannah Beckett handles some moments – particularly the plane crash sequence and the marmot-scene – very well, but the production often lags, even during its brief half-hour run time.
All in all, though, time laughing is time well spent, and this production does have laughs galore. Like Jen and Angie, themselves, the theatrical flaws are masked by the most expensive comedic shot of botox. When the jokes land, the moments are hilarious … and that makes this worth seeing.