‘Ovation’ in a theater

If you’re looking for a way to picture Henry Jaglom’s “Ovation,” think of a movie about a play within a play that wants to be a movie.

Written by Jaglom and Ron Vignone, “Ovation” is a smart and self-aware 110-minute film that plays with its art form.

Layered like one of those paintings of a painting within a painting of a painting, Jaglom and Vignone write a play within the confines of a film. Jaglom, who’s a film director and playwright, uses the structure of a play to provide the film’s narrative skeleton.

Set within the span of a week, “Ovation” houses a good dose of foreshadowing, humor, dramatic irony and many of the conventions found in a play. It even employs a soothsayer, who takes the form of a fortune teller who stars as a psychic who plays a fortune teller in a neighboring theatre production.

There’s a lot of this kind of play within Jaglom and Vignone’s script.

While we see standing ovations for “The Rainmaker” (that’s the name of the play within Jaglom and Vignone’s film), the “The Rainmaker’s” also having trouble making it rain.

Filmed and edited by Vignone, “Ovation” is mostly seen through actor dressing rooms and backstage corridors. We watch the top of people’s heads sitting in the audience while the play itself is mostly offscreen. 

Onscreen is TV actor Steward Henry (played by James Denton of “Desperate Housewives,” “Devious Maids” and “Good Witch”), who tries to convince “The Rainmaker” star Maggie (Tanna Frederick) to lead in a television show with him.

While “Ovation” is a package of paradoxical parameters, it’s cleverly wrapped. The film’s opening credits remind us of the opening of a TV show.

Jaglom and Vignone continue to break the fourth wall with some bits of sophisticated dialogue. In one scene, a playwright has a revelation that one of the film’s subplots would be great for a play.

It is, of course. And when the curtain rises, we can’t help but applaud.

“Ovation” was written by Henry Jaglom and Ron Vignone and directed by Jaglom. It premiered in Western New York as part of the tenth annual Buffalo International Film Festival. 

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