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A CurtainUp Review
It Must Be Him

You are gay — Louis
Not that gay— Scott
Oh right. Just a couple of times a year and once in while when you're drunk — Louis
I just don't want to get typecast — Scott
 It Must Be Him
Alice Playten, Peter Scolari, and Bob Ari
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
If any play could be diagnosed as being bi-polar, then It Must Be Him is it. It only takes the first few minutes of the play's eighty minutes to realize that half of the dialogue is quite funny, and that the other half is intolerably inane. That's too bad because the basic situation created by Emmy Award-winner Kenny Solms has potential. Unfortunately, it is squandered in a recklessly presented budget-be-damned manner. Solms, who wrote many of the hilarious skits for The Carol Burnett Show, has invented a possibly semi-autobiographic character Louie (played by a formidably frenetic Peter Scolari), a frustrated, gay, has-been, middle-aged writer of screenplays who is trying to get his most recent piece of romantic comedy drivel off the ground.

  Louie hasn't sold a script to Hollywood in a long time and he is not only running out of money but also out of ideas. He jumps at the idea suggested by his agent and long-time friend Russ (John Treacy) that the screenplay be changed to suit the times from a straight to a gay romance. This makes sense to him as he can use his current live-in boy-toy Scott (Patrick Cummings) as inspiration. We are obliged to watch and listen as Louie goes through the presumed fixes, most of which are incredulous to say the least. A lamentable reading, as executed by a lineup of indifferent actors, doesn't go well. Are we surprised?

  Louie then imagines his script as a book for a Broadway musical comedy. For this we have the interpolation of songs by Larry Grossman (music) and Ryan Cunningham (lyrics). However, these imbedded musical sequences never rise above the desperately gauche or the deplorably gross, the latter involving a sado-masochistic revelry (with choreography of sorts by Wendy Seyb) replete with leather outfits, whips, chains and extra large and fancy dildos.

  Less damage is done by torture set to music than by too many of the cast members who didn't seem to know their lines (at least at the performance I attended) but were, however, rather precise about stepping on the other actor's lines. This is not acceptable. I also had the feeling that the director Daniel Kutner didn't have a clue about what to do with the purposefully neurotic and chaotic aspects of this comedy or with the slew of actors, none of whom could presumably be whipped into shape.

  The spirit of lunacy was lost from the beginning with Elizabeth Torres, as Ana the Hispanic maid, who would blurt out her throw-a-way lines in a hit-or-miss fashion. Too many punch lines were lost by poor timing and a tendency by the entire cast to rely on improvisation when precision was needed. As it is clearly demonstrated, comedy is not easy and farce is harder still. Theatre veterans Alice Playton and Bob Ari are the best among an unusually large cast called upon to give less than their best. The whole experience is like watching a third-rate community theater, only we don't have the pleasure of seeing a relative or neighbor on the stage. Underneath all the sloppiness that pervades this production, I suspect there is a script and a concept that might be worth salvaging.

It Must Be Him
  By Kenny Solms
  Directed by Daniel Kutner

  Cast: Bob Ari (Leo), Patrick Cummings (Scott), Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Joan/Liz), Harris Boran (Myles), Ryan Duncan (Pete), John Treacy Egan (Ross), Jonathan C. Kaplan (Mark/Eddie) Alice Playton (Rose), Peter Scolari (Louie), Edward Staudenmayer (Ty/Emcee), Elizabeth (Liz) Torres (Ana), Jessica Tyler Wright (Brenda/Hildy)
  Scenic Design: Court Watson
  Costume Design: Laurie Churba
  Lighting Design: Joel E. Silver
  Sound Design: Duncan Edwards
  Choreography: Wendy Seyb
  Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes no intermission
  Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, 416 West 42nd Street
  (212) 279 - 4200
  Tickets: $65.00
    Monday 7pm, Tuesday 7pm, Thursday 7pm, Friday 7pm, Saturday 3pm & 7pm, Sunday 3pm & 7pm
  Opened 09/02/10
  Closes 09/26/10
  Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/03/10
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