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THE SPY WHO WENT INTO REHAB: “My name is Bond, James Bond, and I’m an alcoholic….”

Satiar Pourvasei

Theater Review by Ethlie Ann Vare

Photos by Phil Cass 

VENICE, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/7/24 – “Please silence any shoe phones,” warns playwright Gregg Ostrin as he welcomes a full house to the opening night of The Spy Went Into Rehab, getting a laugh before the show even starts. The laughs never stopped. The Spy Who Went Into Rehab is a very, very funny play.

Satiar Pourvasei

The concept is perfect, when you think about it. You drink, you smoke, you gamble, you consistently bed random women, and you kill people. You’re either James Bond or you’re an alcoholic nicotine addict, sex addict and compulsive gambler with anger issues. So when “Cross, Simon Cross,” with his posh British accent and his white dinner jacket, shows up at New Horizons rehab after being pulled over doing 120mph in his Aston Martin, the lead therapist can only assume he’s drunk and delusional.

“Why else would I be dressed like this?” he asks, indicating his dinner jacket and bowtie. “You‘re a maître d’ at a streak house?” counters therapist Stella.

Stuart W. Howard

When he uses his bowtie phone (“Does Apple make those?”) to call MI6, he discovers that he’s been brought down not by SPECTRE or SMERSH, but by HR. It’s 2024, not 1964. There have been complaints from female coworkers, explains his handler, Z. And all those shaken-not-stirred vodka martinis aren’t as cute as they used to be.

Simon, of course, doesn’t think he needs rehab. He’s not an alcoholic, for goodness sakes. “You just asked for a martini at 11am. What does that make you?” queries Stella. Responds Simon with arched eyebrow: “A gentleman?”

Rachel Townsend, Jill Renner Satiar, Pourvasei, Stuart W. Howard, Alondra Andrade

Satiar Pourvasei’s Simon Cross is not quite toxic masculinity personified, but he definitely captures that “Why should I change, there’s nothing wrong with my life” attitude. Admittedly, he looks damn good compared to the rehab residents he’s tossed in with. They’re a bunch of over-therapized snowflakes who speak fluent victim-ese. Not exactly “a vision for you,” as they say.

But over time, whiny Pixie (Alondra Andrade), fearful Gary (Stuart Howard) and angry Yvonne (Rachel Townsend) become fleshed out as they interact with the reluctant newcomer. Maybe there are things they can learn from him. And maybe there are things he can learn from them. Maybe there’s something to be said for emotional authenticity and human connection. There is some downside to being an international spy, after all. For one thing, people are always trying to kill you.

(Photo: THT/Ethlie Ann Vare)

Speaking of which… when Simon’s arch-enemy Lazarus Rex (Ostrin has a ball with Ian Fleming-style names) suddenly shows up at New Horizons, the story spins off into a whole new but equally funny direction.

“We’re having a blast. It’s just pure joy,” says Cyndy Fujikawa, who serves as director, producer and, sporting her own plummy British accent, Simon’s MI6 handler Z. Stuart Howard does terrific double-duty as both boo-hoo-hoo-ing Gary and bwah-ha-ha-ing Lazarus Rex. And Jill Renner’s Stella goes through changes I’m not going to spoil for you here.

This is the best kind of local production. Smart, original, funny, and pulled off with the simplest of staging and the smallest of budgets. Diamonds may be forever, but live theater only survives if we show up.

“The Spy Who Went Into Rehab”

Presented by Pacific Resident Theatre

Playwright: Gregg Ostrin

Director: Cyndy Fujikawa

Cast: Satiar Pourvasei as Simon, Jill Renner as Stella, Stuart Howard as Gary/Lazarus, Rachel Townsend as Yvonne, Alondra Andrade as Pixie

8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm Sundays through July 7, 2024

Pacific Resident Theatre

705 1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

Tickets: https://pacificresidenttheatre.org/