Grant van Zevern knows there are always three odd things—or 30, usually three—the production designer has to fix opening night. Before Range View Productions, his new company, opened That '90s Show in Hollywood—its inaugural production—he had to fix a light bulb, clean the bathroom and repair the scenery.
They wanted it to look nice for the money—it was their money. All of it. One way to stage a play—the fundamental way, perhaps—is to pay for it all yourself. Which is why members of Range View, who met around the millennium when they attended UC Irvine's School of the Arts and still work day jobs in the industry, have taken this long to mount their first production.
"When you put in your own money, you get creative control," says '90s director Scott Werve. What he doesn't say is you also get extra work: cast member Marie Wong stepped in to lead one last rehearsal opening night; Werve—who should've been nursing a Scotch by then, ran sound cues. Production manager Chris Smith galloped around like a roadie with props and equipment hours before curtain time. When the curtain rose, their years of paying dues paid off, as the young company staged what's actually three short plays in one.
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That '90s Show,written by David Ives, riffs on the Gen X decade in three terse bursts based on something we all remember because they never go away: popular sitcoms.
English Made Simple, the first act, recalls Seinfeld,with an announcer translating what two exes' awkward party talk actually means. Long Ago and Far Away channels Twin Peaks and The X-Files to tell the story of a married couple growing apart through a sequence of unsolved mysteries of unsolved mysteries. The Truth is always out there. The third, Foreplay, or the Art of the Fugue,pays homage to MTV's scripted reality, following three couples on a comically seductive miniature-golf date.
Yeah. Obviously, Range View is aiming for Seinfeld and hoping not to hit Herman's Head.
"'80s love is just about over, and it looks like '90s love might be coming back," Werve says. "We might catch it on the way up, before it's already at Mervyn's." If their timing's right, That '90s Show could carry Range View Productions with it.