So Long Boulder City
Jimmy Fowlie takes over SubCulture to imagine what really happened at the end of La La Land.
There's only one thing La La Land fans want to know more than which parties Warren Beatty was disinvited from after the 2017 Oscars. What kind of one-woman show performed in a 99-seat dive on Santa Monica Boulevard could have possibly landed Emma Stone's character a career-launching film? We know the name of that one-woman show was So Long Boulder City (written, directed, and performed by struggling actor and Los Angeles barista Mia Dolan). We also know she wrote it in a fit of Ryan Gosling-induced creative inspiration, and that it attracted an audience you could tally on one hand. But beyond the Parisian vista out the back window of her tchotchke-filled set, the performance itself remains a Hollywood mystery.
Comedian Jimmy Fowlie and his cowriter and director Jordan Black have picked up that fumbled ball for their own imagining of Mia's one-night-only tour de force, which Fowlie debuted in Los Angeles over the summer and is now performing at New York City's SubCulture. You can feel the ghosts of sparsely attended vanity projects lingering in the walls, so as venues go, this scrappy basement space is prime real estate for Mia's dramatized autobiography. And that, unfortunately, is where the clever parallels come to an end.
For such a particular parody, Fowlie trades in specificity for an exaggerated version of the air-headed Danny Carter some may be familiar with from his web series Go-Go Boy Interrupted. Trade in the spandex shorts for a red wig, lean into the Valley girl dialect, and you've got — not necessarily Mia Dolan, but any self-centered actor with dreams of grandeur and a gross miscalculation of her own talents. She reenacts the childhood plays she would perform for her mentally unstable Aunt Genevieve in her hometown of Boulder City, Nevada; she recalls her unsuccessful days in the Boise State drama program; and she demonstrates the improv skills she honed in Hollywood with a 30-second scene you can bet your B.F.A. will be set in Paris.
Of course, she also hits every pitfall of amateurish stage business — warring with character-shifting costumes, packing and repacking the single sweater in her college suitcase, and performing a particularly cringe-worthy one-sided phone call, a classic element of every terrible solo play. Paired with Fowlie's brainless monotone, they're funny bits that will most likely get a laugh out of anyone who's had to drink their way through a friend's self-produced passion project. But they're bits that have been done before, and in much sharper ways. What's missing in all of this clichéd ridicule is either the irreverent love or intense derision for the source material that inspired such a niche choice.
We register some of that irreverence in scenic designer Diggle's comically crude re-creation of the set, filled with nonsense props including a globe, a vase of flowers, and a dramatic floor lamp with a fringed shade. In the same spirit, costume designer William Graper re-creates the business-casual black skirt, white blouse, and black flats combo that Mia wore for her solo debut. From there, however, Fowlie picks the wrong targets for his mockery. Even the most fervent La La Land apologist admits it's a movie with plenty to be criticized. And yet, Fowlie reaches for the low-hanging trope of a dumb actor with the audacity of ambition. Considering where the past year has taken us, that joke loses steam before Mia even considers saying so long to Boulder City.