Some two dozen celebrities — including Melanie Griffith, Amanda Seyfried, Peter Dinklage and Pablo Schreiber — threw themselves onstage Monday with little rehearsal and little sleep — and survived.
They appeared in the 14th annual benefit "The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway," which asked the actors and several writers and directors to come up with six original short plays over the course of a day. Proceeds help the Urban Arts Partnership.
One play was set in a furniture store. Another was at a casting agency looking to hire an actor for a beer commercial. A third was in a hotel lobby with two sisters — one communicating only through a kazoo — who waited to meet a wizard.
There were jokes about Ebola and Kim Kardashian. At one point, Griffith just lost it and giggled onstage. At another point "Saturday Night Live" star Jay Pharoah came out in ripped up pants that did nothing to cover his rump. A prop chainsaw was used several times.
The other stars who participated included Justin Bartha, Leslie Bibb, Katrina Bowden, Mark Consuelos, Laverne Cox, Rachel Dratch, Michael Ealy, Taran Killam, Justin Long, Stephen Merchant, Diane Neal, Rosie Perez, Leven Rambin, Sam Rockwell, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong and Tracie Thoms.
"There were a few people with lines written on their arms," said Neal, who has starred in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and is a veteran at the 24-hour plays. "But then they got really sweaty so it all went horribly awry."
The directors included America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty"), Ari Edelson ("One Night Stand"), Kathy Najimy ("Veronica's Closet"), acting coach Leigh Kilton Smith and director and educator Peter Ellenstein.
Writers included Christina Anderson ("Good Goods"), Bekah Brunstetter ("Oohrah!"), comedian David Cross, David Lindsay Abaire ("Rabbit Hole"), Jiehae Park ("Hannah and the Dread Gazebo") and Jonathan Marc Sherman ("Things We Want"). Sarwat Siddiqui, the winner of a young writers' project from Fordham University, joined the playwrights.
In Cross' play, titled "Darkness Falls on St. Petersburg," for no apparent reason, the playwright mocked Long and Seyfried, and pretty much every character, male and female, was obsessed with David Cross. In Sherman's play, Seyfried sang both versions of the song "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey as if she was in the opera.
The whole thing worked this way: The playwrights gathered at 10 p.m. on Sunday and had to write a 10-minute play by 7 a.m. the next morning. The celebrity actors — who, to help the process, brought in a prop, a costume, revealed a skill and a secret desire — then rehearsed the work for the next 12 hours. At 8 p.m. on Monday, the plays were performed for a live audience at the American Airlines Theatre.
Thoms, the "Rent" star who spent most of her play blowing into a kazoo, had no skill with the instrument. She just had requested that the playwright not make her scream to protect her voice. Neal revealed that she always wanted to play a mute but spent most of her play talking. ("You see the way that worked out," she deadpanned.)
"It's pure adrenalin," said Thoms, also a veteran. "And there are some times when you get plays that, for some reason, won't go in your head. And you're terrified all over again."
The one-night-only show benefited the Urban Arts Partnership, an organization that brings arts education into New York City classrooms. The 24-Hour play project is backed by German luxury penmaker Montblanc, which has helped fund the project for almost a decade, as well as the Montblanc Young Writers Program.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits