Shot in black-and-white and primarily taking place on a stage, The Telephone Game already has an artistic smell to it. Whether that smell will prove entertaining or annoying is your own call to make, though I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
The film focuses on a small theater production as they audition, prep and eventually perform a new play. Frighteningly on-point (if you’ve ever spent some time around theaters or even small town Summer stock productions), the production routinely wanders into drama due to the writer/director Marco (Wes Tank), and his manic, socially ignorant personality. This is a man who feels that no one truly “gets” his play, eventually forcing his way on stage as the lead actor opposite the only one he seems to have a connection with, Zelphia (Haley Chamberlain). Unfortunately, Marco is like a cinder block thrown overboard, and as the production goes on, the other members of the production need to decide whether they should stay tied to him.
This film is not going to be for everyone. While there are moments of humor and drama that are universal, the reason I enjoyed it so much was how easily I remembered encountering similar types of theatrical personalities and people. The theater is like another world, and this, while played broadly, hits very close to home, or at least as far as I can tell. Someone is always sleeping with someone they shouldn’t be, the creative team is always butting heads and it’s a miracle the play ever comes together… but it does. Maybe not as originally planned, but something creative is usually birthed by the end of the chaos.
That said, the film is entertaining enough, I just feel a little more of a personal touchstone for the audience would go a long way towards adding more enjoyment to the film, or maybe an audience that doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the theater, but an interest. I did find myself, from time to time, glancing at the running time to see how much more the film had to go, not necessarily due to boredom but because I knew where things were heading, and wandered how long it would take to get there, so there may be something to be said for too much familiarity as well.
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