By Karen Isaacs
The world premier play now at Ivoryton Playhouse through Oct. 12 says it all — Comedy IS Hard — hard to do right. This comedy by Mike Reiss mostly gets it right.
Is it funny? Yes. Do you develop feelings for the two main characters? Yes, again. Yet at times it does seem like an extended sketch or an early Neil Simon work with one gag line after another. The idea for the plot is has also been done before — more than once. Yet, it is an enjoyable evening of entertainment.
Lou is an 84- year old second tier comedian living with his son in New York. Each day his son takes to a park for 10 minutes of fresh air. In the park, he meets Kay — a dramatic actress living in a near-by facility for show business folk. She too never hit it big — too many roles went to Angela Lansbury. This becomes a running joke.
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen. The fun is in the getting there. The two develop a friendship with Kay urging Lou to move into the residence, berating his son to treat him better, and sharing war stories of life in show business.
Lou cracks one-liners and gags about everything from aging, to strokes, to his life and his experiences. Some of the humor is mildly adult. A running gag is the unresponsiveness of Canadian audiences.
The bone of contention between the two is Lou’s contention that while drama is easy, comedy is hard.
Kay tries to get him to see that drama also is hard by putting excerpts from Waiting for Godot at the residence.
But this isn’t just a two person show. Kay has an attendant who, besides only speaking Spanish, is prone to saying “Que?” Lou’s humorless but dutiful son reminds you of the son in Simon’s The Sunshine Boys. Another old actor provides some absurdist Godotesque touches to the play.
A problem is that there is little tension to the piece — the spat that causes Kay to stop speaking to Lou for a few days, is a minor one. That’s about as much of a conflict as you get, except for the son’s confrontation with Kay over the why he treats his father the way he does.
And then we come to the ending. It may not be predictable BUT it is definitely trite.
As a world premier — this play will be revised and tightened. But Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard has done a good job with a very professional cast. The action and dialogue is well-timed.
Micky Dolenz may not look at 84, but he proves his comedy chops as Lou. Joyce DeWitt is mostly a straight woman to him as Kay, but she has moments of true feelings. Her diatribe about her anger and her defense of Lou to his son or both touching. But we really learn so much less about her than we do about him. In addition Doiana Mendez is very good as the attendant Valentina; she also plays another small role as a distracted yuppie mother. Michael McDermott is earnest and boring — he’s supposed to be — as Lou’s son. Dan Coyle has some fine moments as the other actor, Mr. Holroyd. You have to admire his ability to stand motionless for extended periods.
Special praise must go to scenic designer Daniel Nishan has created both a very flexible set but made it look sturdy, attractive and quite expensive. Ivoryton has obviously increased their budge for this production and it shows.
But when you come down to it, this play is like so many treats you find at fairs and carnivals — it is better in small doses.
So for great fun and a lot of laughs you will find Comedy Is Hard to be easy to like at Ivoryton Playhouse.