Pasadena City College’s rendition of Sam Shepard’s “Angel City” explores the destructive and exploitative nature of the Hollywood machine that often drives people to corruption.  

The play follows Rabbit, a magical miracle man with a reputation for helping Hollywood with failing film projects. Rabbit is asked by film executives, Wheeler and Lanx, to create a cinematic catastrophe large enough to save their newest disaster film. Over time Rabbit comes to find that everyone there is waiting for their big moment that will never come, Miss Scoons waiting to be a star and Tympani waiting for his special, never-before-heard-before rhythm that will make him famous. They trust so deeply in the Hollywood machine that they never question leaving, regardless of the studio failing.

The ongoing theme throughout this play is the danger of allowing Hollywood and film to dictate our lives and dreams. Miss Scoons is the best example of this throughout the play. She often laments how she hates her life for not being a movie, seeing no value in an existence that isn’t highly romanticized and perfect like on the screen.“I look at the screen and I am the screen. I’m not me. I don’t know who I am. I look at the movie and I am the movie. I am the star… I hate my life not being a movie.” (AC, p. 77)

The longer Rabbit is cut off from the populace, facing his inner turmoil alone, the more he begins to be drawn into the Hollywood machine. He slowly realizes movies have become something more than entertainment, these movies are where people get their inspiration, hope, and fears, even replacing real connections. He realizes that the imagination of dying is more scary than actually dying and that is profitable. 

They slowly all begin to lose what’s left of their sanity. The phrase “the west is a place for looking inside yourself” repeats throughout the second act and proves itself true as the characters begin acting out their inner fantasies. The influence of money, power, and control slowly corrupts even Rabbit.The play ends with two teenagers with popcorn viewing from above as Wheeler and Rabbit unleash chaos, leaving the audience wondering what was truly reality.

Xol Gonzales gave a spectacular performance that brought the humor and intensity of the show to life in a way that made the show much more pleasurable to watch. The entire ensemble of actors gave delightful performances, melding and molding into new characters in a matter of seconds. Another notable performance was given by Tristan Wong, debuting his first ever theater performance. Wong brought a wonderful energy to the show that left me desiring more of his character.

“Angel City” is by far one of the oddest, yet most intriguing plays I’ve ever watched. It feels similar to a fever dream, utterly surreal and without real structure or reason. It leaves the audience wondering if the dream-like experience is intentional and meant to represent how the characters are trapped in their unrealistic dreams of stardom. 

 “I felt it was going to be a challenge because it’s quite different from your average everyday play. So I thought I’d go give it a shot and it’d be a nice challenge for myself, a challenge for the actors, and it gave all the design departments a challenge,” said Will Ahrens, the director of “Angel City”.  

“Angel City” brings to the stage the unsettling reality that the Hollywood dream is just that, a dream. 

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