“Mia Dolan sucks.” In the film La La Land, when the character played by Emma Stone is seen performing a one-woman show in a theater so shabby that even the roaches stayed home, you can almost feel that sentiment waft off the screen. And let’s be real: in the context of La La Land, in that moment, Mia Dolan does suck.
Unless you’re actor Jimmy Fowlie. For him, Mia’s sparsely attended, risible romp is not a plot point, it’s the whole point. He co-created So Long Boulder City, now running at Subculture Theater through Jan. 7, after seeing La La Land twice and wondering about the show that Mia wrote. What exactly was it? Who were those few people in the house? How weirdly odd, or oddly weird, was it all? Is it real? Or is it ripe for parody and satire?
Fowlie, whose creative partner on So Long Boulder City is his crackerjack director, Jordan Black, is a natural for such terrific tomfoolery. In addition to performing sketch and improv with The Groundlings, he’s best known for writing and starring in Go-Go Boy Interrupted, which follows a clueless 30-year-old go-go boy who is aging out of his, uh, career.
Years ago, I worked on an opera called Sunset Salome, which imagines Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard residing “in a hospital for the criminally insane.” That makes sense: where else does one go after murdering William Holden? There at the hospital, Norma is tasked with running a theater program, and what does she produce? Why Salome, naturally, complete with batty plot twists. Well, So Long Boulder City fits this spirit — what you might call metatheatrical absurdism. First, as Fowlie and Black do, you treat a fictional character as someone very real. And then you magnify a tiny element of the story into something utterly monumental. Think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for the 21st century.
As for Mia Dolan herself? Yeah, she probably sucks. But she became a star. As will Fowlie. As we wait for the inevitable to occur, let us be content with the show’s loopy dedication:
So Long Boulder City is a gift for every actor/singer/waiter who dreams of becoming a star but is met with the harsh reality that they drive for Uber.
For tickets to So Long Boulder City, click here.
And now, 5 questions Jimmy Fowlie has never been asked:
What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?
What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?
I think it’s when you come off a show and people say “How do you remember all those lines?” With this show, though, it was actually a feat to memorize the whole thing.
What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
When I did Go-Go Boy, one guy thought I was a prostitute; he kept trying to get me to hang out with him. I think he was confused. Its fair. I don’t blame him. For centuries, go-go boys and prostitution have gone hand in hand.
Tell me more about the genesis of this show.
It’s the version of Mia Dolan’s one-woman show that had, like, four people in the theater and crickets. I loved the movie. I bawled and cried even though it wasn’t cool to like it. But the one thing that tripped me up was Mia’s show. I was always, like, wait — what is this show? She’s a first-time writer. She has no outside perspective. When people come to watch her, no one comes? Which is a huge red flag.
In the real world, Mia would wrangle all of her friends to the show — everyone from acting class, people from her work; she’d fill the house at least half-way. Then the movie throws you for another loop: this huge casting director saw her and gets her this big audition for a movie that shoots in Paris that doesn’t even have a script? So I thought it would be funny to see just what her show was. As a performer at the Groundlings, for their Sunday company, you do a new sketch show every week. You get used to producing new content pretty fast. So I thought I’d do this thing, once, for my friends.
Suddenly it was People magazine! Christa Stone — Emma’s mother — reached out to me. I mean, my own parents don’t like my comedy. Ironically, in my head, I’m thinking: Jimmy, just do not write this one-person show; work on something for your career. Write a pilot. Then this just blew up. And then I got an opportunity to bring it to NYC.
What exactly happens in So Long Boulder City?
It’s really a send-up of one-person shows — almost like a bad one-person show. Jordan and I watched the movie a bunch of times, trying to pull clues. There are little clues everywhere. When you see Mia with her roommates, she says she’s writing a show and you get a fast shot of the script, and it reads something like, “Genevieve enters with a trench coat.” Who is Genevieve? It’s insane. I also think what’s so fun about this show is that Mia is so confident. As the start of the show, she knows she’s got you to her show, and I come out in her outfit, with my little red wig and my makeup…
I’d guess the trick is sustaining the conceit.
Well, the running time is one hour and seven minutes, so yes. It’s really hard to sustain and it’s challenging because I never stop moving and there’s a lot of dancing — I do the electric slide for four-and-a-half minutes. Even when I did the show in LA, I only did it three times a week; here I’m doing it eight times a week in NYC.
Do you consider yourself a comic actor or an actor who does comedy?
After I went to USC, I was trying to do dramatic acting, which is funny in retrospect. I’m not good at it. I’d find myself screaming at casting directors and shaking my left hand because I didn’t know what to do it. I got involved in improv in college.
What’s your definition of “funny”?
I like characters who are really honest. People who try so hard. Mia Dolan is trying so hard to show you how she’s got it covered. But she’s so deeply insecure that at every turn you can see her grappling with everything she’s trying to cover up. I love that. You see it all the time — people trying to show you one thing but where, deep down, something else is going on.
Does Jimmy Fowlie have an inner Mia Dolan?
Everyone does! We’re all vulnerable. I’ve had sketches do well, millions of views, yet every time I do something, I think to myself, This is terrible! I have to remind myself we were only expecting this show to be a one-time thing. Then Variety came to review and I thought, OK, this is really a show. It’s still me, pranking my friends. I said to myself, Jimmy, it is what it is.