Awfully Good: The Room...Live!
This week brings a very special theatrical edition of Awfully Good…
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Stars: Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero
Is there a plot?
If you're not familiar with the genius that is THE ROOM, click here for everything you need to know.
What's the damage?
Someday my children will ask me where I was when Barack Obama was elected President, or when Supreme Human Empress Palin took over the world, and I will pick them up, sit them on my lap and instead tell them the story of how I was there when Tommy Wiseau first performed THE ROOM live. History was indeed made this weekend as the cult phenomenon and its dynamic ringleader took to the stage at the hallowed grounds of the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland for a theatrical show that rivaled its cinematic counterpart.
Though it was initially conceived and marketed as a live reading where the actors would simply recite their lines with script in hand, Wiseau knew THE ROOM deserved better. And after only a couple days of rehearsal with local actors (and original Mark, Greg Sestero), the mad genius of questionable origin unleashed his Frankenstein upon society as a full-fledged play. As it stands, THE ROOM Live is a reinvented beast all its own—part faithful adaptation, part loving exploration, and part self-commentary.
Mark, Denny and Johnny prepare to throw the football around.ROOM purists need not fear; though some elements are re-imagined and rearranged, all of your favorite moments are still intact. With a minimal set dressed with a stuffed “doggy,” romantic roses, and of course a framed picture of a spoon, fans will feel at home as they watch the movie come to life. There’s the famous lines and references, the action packed showdown with Chris R., and all the awkward football tossing you could ever desire. (At one point, the characters even break the fourth wall to run through the aisles and play football with the audience.) Some of the more dramatic scenes are delivered with a heightened sense of pathos and relish not possible through the screen version. (READ: Wiseau might throw props at you in the heat of the moment.) In fact, the experience plays extremely similar to the popular midnight screenings of THE ROOM, with constant audience interaction and spoon throwing that rivals ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
So what exactly is different about the play? The most noticeable is that after eight years of critical jeers and fan participation, Tommy Wiseau knows how to play to the material's "strengths" and the show constantly comments on the things everyone loves. There's lots of ad libbing, like "Why am I wearing this tux?” or “Would you like a spoon with that?” The girl at the flower shop makes note about overcoming her androgyny. Johnny finally gives Denny a lesson in fractions, while Denny is less subtle about Johnny's romantic troubles (“He wants to f*ck your wife, dude!”). And finally, someone notices that Peter and Steven are not the same person.
The titular room.Some characters also get extra scenes and extended back stories to explain some of the film's abandoned subplots, prompting shocked gasps and shouts of “That’s not canon!” from the crowd. Johnny admits that Denny "is a little retarded” and in a bonus scene with Chris R., we learn that despite his learning disability, Denny is also dealing running drugs to help pay for school. The waitress/flower shop owner gets more screen time for Wiseau’s cutting edge exposé on the service industry. And Lisa’s mom Claudette has a follow up appointment with her oncologist who confirms that her breast cancer is, in fact, terminal. Enter the play's best new character, Travis—the sassy black neighbor who woos Claudette through song, giving her a newfound sense of hope during her brave struggle against cancer. The audience was skeptical about his insertion in the story, but Travis soon won everyone over with his pick up line about taking Claudette out for her "last supper" and their duet to Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." (One of the actors told me after the show that Travis was a last minute addition by Wiseau during rehearsals, who felt the story needed one more character.)
Perhaps the biggest change, however, comes at the film's ending. [SPOILER] Johnny meets his demise in a drastically different way than in the original movie. I won't spoil it here, but you can see for yourself in the video below (as well as the audience's reaction to it). Suffice to say, Denny's line of “You tore him apart, Lisa” still fits. [END SPOILER] And in typical Wiseau fashion, the play even attempts to impart a serious message: "If everyone loved each other, the world would be a better place." At least I'm pretty sure that was the overarching theme, as the characters repeat the line over and over. And the audience was forced to say it once as well.
Lisa pre-tearing-Johnny-apart.And how is the man himself? Tommy Wiseau is…well, he’s Tommy Wiseau. Whether you’ve met him at a screening or just seen him in the film, he’s exactly the same on screen, in person and on stage. Wiseau gives it his all and really sells the big lines (I think he says, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" three times), though he does manage to flub and goof up enough to make you wonder if he still doesn't know his own movie yet.
Given the short rehearsal time, the local actors worked well in their roles, though some were clearly a bit baffled by the material and Wiseau. But the performer that came across the best was Greg Sestero, who reprises his role of Mark. While most of the original actors have abandoned THE ROOM, Sestero continues to be a great sport about it. His ad libs and sarcastic comments during the show got the biggest laughs. ("Oh high Mark!") Sestero doesn’t mock the material or its fans, but he knows exactly what he’s gotten himself in to.
The play's amazing poster. And yes, Tommy Wiseau asked me how my sex life was when he signed it.
The movie/play's most famous line.
Tommy Wiseau destroys the set and makes some bad decisions in this clip from the end.
Wiseau knows what people want! But he still takes his shirt off anyways…
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.