Ready for My Close-up

Rob Ackerman doesn’t take success too well.

“When my PR guy called and said John Simon had written a good review, I yelled at him,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Don’t fuck with me!’ “

Ackerman, author of the play Tabletop, is getting better at taking compliments. His play—a manic treatise on truth, justice and advertising as seen by a crew of commercial production workers seeking the perfect product closeup (the “tabletop” shot)—is one of the season’s big hits. The Working Theater production ran earlier this fall in a small Off-Broadway space, and is reopening this week at the 300-seat American Place Theater.

Ackerman got his inspiration from years of work as a prop master for commercials. “A lot of people are amazed at how specific it is,” he says of the equipment-stuffed set. “We’re even using a Moviola dolly this time, which we couldn’t fit in the old space.” The plot itself, which pivots on a conflict between the studio’s dictatorial boss and an idealistic underling, is rooted in reality, too.

Nine years in the making, Tabletop is a gem—and especially great fun for those who work in the business. Still, Ackerman remains humble. “You hate to tempt the gods,” he says. “They’ll come and bite you.” chuck gonzales