Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It Must Be Him

A late summer gem is playing over at the Peter J. Sharp Theatre above Playwrights Horizons for the next few weeks.  I don't know who Kenny Solms, the playwright, is, but he should have a career in situation comedy writing if he doesn't already.  When it's laugh-out-loud funny, you don't mind the fact that is seems like a TV show.  Matter of fact, when done well, it's just as good, if not better.

Peter Scolari helms this romp playing Louie Wexler, an aging 50-something, Beverly Hills based comedy writer from the days of variety TV who is down on his luck, out of fresh ideas, out of cash, and barely out of the closet.  (Seemed to me this could have been based on most any Hollywood writer!).  He lives alone, loves boys (who he never seems to get),  and is tormented by visions of his dead parents (Bob Ari, Alice Playten), his high school girlfriend (Stephanie D'Abruzzo) and his living brother (Jonathan Kaplan) - all who bring varying levels of guilt to the table.  His housekeeper, Ana, (Liz Torres) is best remembered for playing the "es-panish es-peeking" nurse to Archie Bunker on All in the Family who could say "Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation" but had trouble with "chiis" (that's cheese, if you can't hear my accent in the typing!).  In many ways she brilliantly reprises the devilishly lazy and innocent Latina role here once again.

The object of Louie's affection, 20 year old Scott (Patrick Cummings), wants to break into show biz.  He lives in the guest house but Louie wishes it were so much more! (this seems to me to be the classic Hollywood situation!).  People of Louie's generation didn't come out and stuck to writing funny material.  He's fresh out of ideas, his guilt and longing for a relationship is gnawing at his psyche and he's going to lose his home.  He finally decides to write something new and for the first time it's based on all the people in his real life (the "play within a play" thing).  Turns out, in the end, that his agent (Edward Staudenmayer) may just save the day!

Despite all the camp (and there is plenty) and obvious jokes (there are many) the show comes off as well done.  It's fast paced, it has musical numbers (remember, Louie writes variety shows), and plenty of belly laughs and one liners  - all in 90 minutes without an intermission.  Bravo.  The cast seems to be enjoying themselves on stage - most of all Peter Scolari - who plays the neurotic 50-something with aplomb.