The running joke through the plays is the inanity of producing theater in a matter of hours. Set in a green room, the first play's Crudup instructs Jason Biggs (“American Pie”), sporting a glittering blonde wig and sapphire negligee, to anesthetize: drink the gift bag, champagne, vodka, even the body lotion for its 12% alcohol content. Biggs obediently squirts the contents down the hatch.
Mostly, writers banked on the the silliness of dressing actors in costumes. Enter David Cross as a Foxy Brown-obsessed dancer, gyrating incessantly in an unwrapped wrap-dress and gold sequin shorts. The writers and directors clutched at comedy as a life raft: buoyant and light, forgiving of crack-ups, ridiculous transitions and casual cameos from Tracy Morgan as an easy punch line. Jack McBrayer pranced about in a French maid’s costume trying to sweep up gangster dust bunnies Sarah Silverman and Megan Fox.
In this way, the scripts were earnestly safe, implausible and inane. One play, by David Lindsay-Abaire, stood out among the others. Its premise (similar to Chuck Palahniuk's short story “Cold Calling”) envisioned hell as a telemarketer phone bank, with John Krasinski as a middle manager.
Despite the in-jokes about the difficulty of the task at hand, the six productions were smooth. This marks the 10th Anniversary of the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway and many of the actors, writers, and directors are long-time veterans. They know what works. The evening of controlled chaos accrued more than $400,000 for Urban Arts Partnership, funds that will brings arts to underserved students in the New York Public Schools. But the chaos was a little too controlled. What was lacking was the risk of failure, the edge of disaster, and the actual absurd.