HBO Review: ‘Coastal Elites’

By: 
Ben Miles

“Coastal Elites” premiered on Saturday, September 12, on HBO and can be accessed On Demand through the various HBO options attached to your cable subscription. But why should you access it?

Reason one: It’s as close to live theater as many of us are likely to get in the foreseeable future.

Reason two: It’s cleverly yet movingly written by playwright and humorist Paul Rudnick (“Poor Little Lambs”) and directed with a Zoom meeting sensibility by Jay Roach (“Bombshell”).

Reason three: In five separate monologues ranging from a laugh-out-loud characterization (Bette Midler) as a former schoolteacher and devotee to Hillary Clinton; to topical artistic predicaments by a gay actor (Dan Levy); to a rich girl’s (Issa Rae) perplexing explanation of a request she received from her former boarding school classmate, Ivanka Trump; to a would-be new age sage (Sarah Paulson) bent on offering the 28th live-streaming episode of a serenity meditation but is constantly disrupted by her horrid recollections of a recent family reunion she attended in the Midwest; to a Wyoming nurse (Kaitlyn Dever) who has been called to duty in New York City in order to tend to the COVID crisis.

While each performer is convincing and the writing provides showcases for each performer  – the monologues will surely serve as fodder for acting classes from now on  –  the material itself moves from riveting (Bette Midler as Miriam) to sometimes numbing (Dan Levy as Mark Hesterman) to provocative (Issa Rae as Callie) to oddly sitcom-ish (Sarah Paulson as Clarissa) to heart-rending (Kaitlyn Dever as Nurse Sharynn).

The 90-minute program is composed of five mono-dramas, each individually titled as “Lock Her Up,” “Supergay,” “The Blond Cloud,” “Mindful Meditations” and the finale, which goes without a title but ends up being the tender connective tissue that binds all the monologues.

Intended to be a theater piece meant for staging at New York’s Public Theater, this HBO production is unabashedly anti Trump. Each monologue is preceded by statements made by Donald Trump or a Trump loyalist (Mike Pence, specifically), while the words of the monologue serve to undermine the oh so familiar Trump tropes, such as “Lock Her Up.”

“Costal Elites” is impolite, partisan and oh so relevant to this moment in our national psyche. It’s available anytime On Demand for HBO Subscribers.

ben@beachcomber.news

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