Even if we don’t like to willingly admit it reality TV is something that many of us can’t seem to get enough of, myself included. It’s like eating potato chips; you can never just have one once you’ve started. We willingly watch to see what those crazy kids on “Jersey Shore” will do and wonder which city the “Real Housewives” will tackle next, tuning in each week making it part of our day.
While reality TV is supposedly “real” the Williamston Theatre’s sixth season opener, “The Dead Guy,” written by Eric Coble and directed by Tony Caselli, takes a look at how real is reality TV, inviting the audience into the background of America’s latest obsession.
“The Dead Guy” starts with TV producer Gina Yaweth (Robin Lewis-Bedz) who ironically works for a company called “Totally Real Productions,” trying to find her next star for her newest show. Once she lands in Leadville, a small community where everyone knows everyone else, she meets Eldon Phelps (Chris Korte), a man who’s down on his luck.
Her proposal is simple, Eldon gets a million dollars that he has to spend in seven days, but there are two catches. One, he will be filmed the whole time and two, he will die at the end of those seven days, with viewers voting in on how he will meet his demise.
Eldon willingly signs up and then begins to spend his million dollars, buying cars for family, going on vacation to Disney Land, which ensues some of the funniest moments of the show, and trying to win back his love, Christy (Michelle Serje), all the meanwhile being filmed by Yaweth’s one man crew, Dougie (Eric Eilersen).
Korte takes what could have been a very unlikeable character, especially in the beginning, and turns him into someone that you want to root for. He starts as a man that is determined to take the easy way out but then he transforms into someone that wants to do good in his last seven days on Earth, ultimately leading to self-discovery.
As Eldon Phelps transforms so does Korte, showing the diversity that he is capable of, gaining some big laughs at moments and tears at others. Towards the end there is a scene that he has with Christy, Serje in her Williamston Theatre debut, which really tugs at the heartstrings.
But as you begin to root for Korte you realize just how awful producer Gina Yaweth is. She’s greedy and she proves this “reality show” isn’t as real as she led Eldon to believe. There is one moment in particular when Eldon tells Dougie to keep filming and Regina rejects the idea because it won’t make for good TV further showcasing that this “real” show isn’t real at all.
While I disliked Gina throughout, Lewis-Bedz brings brief moments of humanity to a character that often crosses the line between being genuine and just wanting good ratings, making it impossible to tell how real she is.
Towards the end of the show Lewis-Bedz looks toward the audience and tells them that there will be a second season of “The Dead Guy” which left me thinking about our fascination with reality TV. Are we becoming too focused on this sort of reality instead of our own lives? And more importantly is there anything that people won’t watch?
“The Dead Guy” is playing now through October 30 at Williamston Theatre.