When a set consists of three metal folding chairs and a ladder against black walls, the actor’s performance had better be compelling. And in Mutant Olive 2.0, writer/actor Mitch Hara works overtime to fill the space and keep things moving.
Hara embodies Adam Astra, an actor showing up late to audition for Hamilton: Unplugged. Frenetically racing into the theater, he addresses the audience directly, as though they were the ones making casting decisions.
Rather than jumping into the Puck soliloquy he has planned for his audition, the hyperactive Astra insists on getting deeply personal. He enters on the phone with his father, his one-sided conversation an explanation for the self-obsessed life story that follows. “I need to detox for you,” Astra insists. Director Carlyle King wisely lets Hara’s intensity and energy break down barriers and build empathy in this solo show.
Astra describes his relationship with his father as love-hate: “He hates everything I do and I’ve learned how to love it.” He details his childhood and growing up with parents who were alcoholics and speed addicts, paralleling Hara’s own experiences. The story describing the “mutant olive” that gives the show its title is a standout.
The repeated starts and stops of Astra’s “Puck!” speech take self-indulgence over the top and strain the credulity of anyone who has ever been in a casting session. Without a “Thank you, next!” Astra runs amok with a firehose of cringe-y stories. Will he be able to pull himself together and actually audition? Or will someone please get this guy a couch and bring in a therapist?
Mutant Olive 2.0 runs every Tuesday through April 11 at Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $20 and are available here.