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Review - It Must Be Him: Left Coast Story

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It's not shaping up to be a very promising season for alumni of The Carol Burnett Show. Just like the recently closed Viagra Falls, Kenny Solms' It Must Be Him offers a terrific company of comical pros working hard to inject any mirth possible into ninety minutes of tepid material.

Gifted clown Peter Scolari rarely leaves the stage as L.A.-based writer Louie, whose passion for musical theatre (his home has cast albums of Take Me Along, Bajour, Redhead and Donnybrook! prominently on display) led him to early success penning sketches for television variety shows. Now, in his 50s and struggling to find work, Louie spends nights cuddling with his Emmy Award when he's not trying to explain Kay Thompson references to his latest twenty-something himbo boyfriend, Scott (PatRick Cummings).

His agent and good friend, Russ (John Treacy Egan), wants him to revise the romantic comedy screenplay he's just completed into a gay male love story, thinking he can make it ring truer than the traditional straight version he's trying to sell. While rushing to get the job done before that evening's informal reading, Louie has fantasy visits from his deceased parents (Alice Playten is his nurturing mom and Bob Ari is his gruff dad) and his nerdy first girlfriend (Stephanie D'Abruzzo). Real life interruptions (and some legitimate laughs) are supplied by Liz Torres as his thickly-accented housekeeper, Ana. Skilled at flat, drop-dead comic zingers, Torres feasts on even the most humorless exchanges, such as, "How are you, Ana?" "Illegal."

By the time we get to the reading, Louis has filled his screenplay with much of the unfunny material we've just seen played out, only this time the role based on himself is being read by a bleached-blonde flamer described as "Rip Taylor without the confetti." (Edward Staudenmayer)

Desperate to make the story work, Louie next envisions the piece as a Broadway musical. Composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Ryan Cunningham provide a musical montage highlighted by an witless S&M number ("Kick me in the nuts and call me 'Honey'") featuring Ryan Duncan and Jonathan C. Kaplan as sassy showboys.

Director Daniel Kutner actually does a fine job of pushing the sitcom-style text along at a clipped pace and the talented cast delivers the material so sharply that the evening does have its entertainment value. But without a decent number of big laughs it amounts to little more than being kicked in the nuts without being called "Honey."

Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Peter Scolari; Bottom: (above) Peter Scolari and PatRick Cummings (below) Ryan Duncan, Edward Staudenmayer and Jonathan C. Kaplan.

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