William Desmond Taylor directing for Flying A Studios | Credit: Courtesy

Diamond to Dust: A “Flying A” Fantasy, produced by the Westmont Theatre department, is a truly homegrown play. Written by Santa Barbara-based playwright Michael Bernard, directed by Westmont’s longtime theater arts professor John Blondell, and acted by Westmont students, Diamond to Dust tells a tale of the days of silent film production at the Flying A movie studios here in Santa Barbara — and the lunatic fringe contingency of artists behind the magic. Bernard, a fan of the screwball comedy genre, has written a door-slamming, face-slapping, hiding-in-closets extravaganza — performed by actors completely committed to zaniness.

The play opens with Flying A studio executives struggling to reign in an unruly cast and crew as they film the popular serial, The Diamond From the Sky. The play then follows these characters as they behave badly on set and off. The production dances through choreographed, slapstick chaos until the end when it’s revealed that the studio will no longer pay people a weekly salary, but instead lump sums by the picture. This alienates much of the existing talent, and most of them ride the rails down to up-and-coming Los Angeles to seek fame and fortune.

The show is high-energy and a lot of fun to watch, and it gives the performers room to show their comedic chops. Highlights are Noah Nims as the charming, but constantly vexed film director, and Rory Nguyen as the headstrong, besotted leading lady. Joel Michelson provides moments of poignancy as the times change around him, and Junia Coe-Renner steals scenes as the severe Eastern-European accompanist who knows a little too well how to incapacitate an adversary.

Diamond to Dust is a joyful romp through a bygone era, with style and just enough substance to ground the shenanigans in authentic emotion. This show runs at Westmont’s Porter Theater through March 4. westmont.edu/boxoffice


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