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Sam Rockwell Break Dances and Other Absurdities at NYC 24-Hour Play Festival

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood November 15, 2012 at 5:25AM

Sam Rockwell Break Dances and Other Absurdities at NYC 24-Hour Play Festival
Courtesy Getty Images

Sam Rockwell, sporting a tuxedo printed t-shirt and a silk top hat, grooved, slid, shook and shimmied across a Broadway stage Monday night in an impromptu dance-off.  He took on Justin Long in a short play written just 24 hours before.  The two men--accompanied by an ensemble including Olivia Wilde, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, Billy Crudup, Diane Neal, Rosie Perez, and America Ferrera--participated in one of six scenes at last night's "24 Hour Plays."  

"24 Hour Plays," an annual New York fundraiser for Urban Arts Partnership sponsored by Mont Blanc, thrives

Courtesy Getty Images

upon improvisational goofing (last year's review here).  The 2012 crew started working Sunday with one full day to script, stage, rehearse and perform six short plays.  At the behest of a group of writers and theater directors, a small cadre of celebrity actors plunged into ridiculous attire and absurd situations.  Zosia Mamet donned an all-red jumpsuit and an enormous horse mask, Amber Tamblyn pranced in a pink fluffy princess costume, and both Billy Crudup and Justin Long were squeezed into belly-baring Hooters shirts. 

Though some of the plays couldn't break their actors out of easy and expected roles ("30 Rock" page Jack McBrayer played a quirky, wide-eyed optimistic innocent), sometimes playing to their strengths allowed them to shine.  If Rockwell's got the moves, shouldn't he get down?   Why not allow Rosie Perez to show some attitude as a fuming apartment tenant wrapped in a bathrobe and hair-curlers?

The two standout sketches of the evening were both realistic and far-fetched.  Theresa Rebeck's "Workday" pitted an ingenue secretary (Vanessa Hudgens) against office mean girls (Amber Heard and Emmanuelle Chriqui), as well as neurotic bosses (Maura Tierney, Anthony Mackie, Fisher Stevens).  The play captured the confusion of walk-and-talk office environments.

Rachel Axler's "Horse" effortlessly created a playful and childish dreamscape, with Zosia Mamet, Jack McBrayer, Taran Killam, and Gina Gershon, whose last name had an achoo-sound: D'Jeunefl[sneeze].  It was whimsical and lovely.

The final scene unintentionally summarized the downtime that follows an all-nighter.  Rachel Dratch goes to dinner with someone she met on Z-Date, a zombie dating website.  Playing to New York laughter, Dratch asked America Ferrera which was worse -- he was a zombie or he was a banker? 

The answer was given by another play: the worst thing is to be dressed like a Williamsburg hipster.  After the send-up ended, the entire cast for the evening came out, arms outstretched, eyes glazed.

This article is related to: Sam Rockwell, Justin Long, Billy Crudup, Olivia Wilde, America Ferrera, Amber Heard, Amber Tamblyn, Fisher Stevens, Anthony Mackie, Vanessa Hudgens, Gina Gershon

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.