If you get the opportunity to see The Telephone Game, do it. This will be more difficult if you’re not in the Twin Cities, but more worthwhile if you’ve ever done theater, particularly experimental theater, or like your movies slightly odd.
I just got back from the premier. I went without great expectations, knowing this was a local, low-budget production. Not that you can’t do great things on a budget, but that usually means attracting the cast you know rather than the cast you can afford. Ben and I were there so he could take a few pictures. It turns out he’s also taken pictures of approximately half the cast, but that’s a bit beside the point.
The Telephone Game tells the story of the production of a play, from auditions to opening night. It also follows the relationship of the playwright, Marco, who insists on directing and starring in his own production, and the leading actress, Zelphia, who understands the core of the play better than Marco does. Both storylines are greatly complicated by the fact that Marco is the least coherent individual on the face of the planet. Far less coherent even than a politician with the last name of Bush.
Despite that, he seems to have written a delightfully evocative play, and we’re given enough of a glimpse at it up front to be concerned when Marco’s doubts cause him to start messing his production. What actually happens to the play over the course of the movie is something I won’t spoil by describing it.
The cast of the movie was much better than I had expected going in. Haley Chamberlain was stunning as the female lead, both as the actress and in her role in the play. The movie would be worth watching for her alone. However, nobody fell to the level of “strictly local talent” that I expected in a movie this low budget.
That might have something to do with the fact that the script was improvised. There was, at most, one character in the movie underserved by her writer. The rest all stood out as individuals. And you really have to admire a movie that can work in a line like “Then I puked a projection of Peter Piper’s pickled peppers onto the poor percussionists in the pit. That’s why I don’t act,” and not have it completely derail the scene.
Beyond that, I find myself unwilling to describe the movie. I went into it without any good idea of what I was going to see, and that served me well. However, if you’re not ready to take my word that the movie is worthwhile, you can always watch the trailer below. But really, just see the movie.