'Ira and Abby' is actress' best since 'Stein'

SOME YEARS AGO I raved about “Kissing Jessica Stein,” the story dreamed up by the beautiful Jennifer Westfeldt as a starring vehicle for herself (Nice girl gets tired of blind dating; decides to try being gay!) That was hilarious, and now Westfeldt, has “Ira and Abby,” a gorgeously neurotic love story. Again, she wrote it herself. “Ira and Abby,” is about a depressed 12-years-in-therapy guy (Chris Messina) who can’t make up his mind and is totally miserable. He meets a loopy, enthusiastic, joy-to-the-world, impulsive, enthusiastic, open-hearted girl (Jennifer) who asks him suddenly if he wants to get married? They do! The rest, including a histrionic breakup, is history, involving his upscale shrink parents (the excellents, I call them — Robert Klein and Judith Light) and her more or less innocent post-flower children dad and mom (Fred Willard and Frances Conroy). This very funny dysfunctional cast includes Jason Alexander and Maddie Corman as a jolly shrink and not-so-jolly-ex girlfriend. Excellent movie. The appealing Westfeldt is a big big talent, surely long overdue to really “happen.” She has the touching vulnerability of that big yesteryear star Jean Arthur. She can act, she can write, she can produce. Her real-life boyfriend is the leading man of the AMC hit “Mad Men,” Jon Hamm.

TONIGHT, the Nat’l Arts Club gives Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis its Gold Medal of Honor for Film in a black tie tribute where many big stars will say “Hail, Olympia!”…And hail also to Queen Latifah heading up N.Y. Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical’s cabaret Oct. 23 along with Ashford & Simpson. Call 212-573-6933…Sharon Stone is the new Global Fundraising Chair of AmFAR and Natasha Richardson and Diana Taylor are named to the board under Kenneth Cole. … Traci Lords has given birth to her first child, a boy, Joseph Gunnar. He weighed in at 6 lbs 14 ounces. Mom, dad and baby are “healthy, happy and pretty tired.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ and Eva Longoria were spotted chatting at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I am told the pair talked about making a movie, playing sisters. It won’t happen soon. … Gina Gershon stars in a dizzy musical presentation titled “In Search of Cleo: The True Story About a Girl Who Lost More Than Just Her Cat” at the Box at 189 Chrystie St. She opened on Sunday and runs through Oct. 29 … Judy Kuhn created the role of Cossette in the long-running musical “Les Miserables.” This happened on B’way 20 years ago. She’ll return to this show on Oct. 23 playing Fantine, Cosette’s mother. You can also catch her at Joe’s Pub where she sings her tribute to the late Laura Nyro every Monday through Oct. 27.

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