'It Must Be Him'

You can't help but wonder how much coin this misguided show cost its chump producers.

Why do TV folk always take to the stage when they feel the need to embarrass themselves with a tell-all piece like “It Must Be Him”? What’s wrong with a nice self-published autobiography or maybe a private club act? Hollywood’s latest emigre, Kenny Solms, may have penned great material for Carol Burnett and Steve Allen back in the day, but would he ask those TV legends to appear in a humiliating show about a Hollywood hack who junks his career to chase after a pretty boy young enough to be his grandson?

You can’t help but wonder how much coin this misguided show cost its chump producers: 10 actors playing multiple roles demanding frequent costume changes, solidly built and carefully dressed sets tracked for multiple scene changes, well-rigged lightboard to accommodate all those set changes, lots of props, musical arrangements and an on-stage piano for an awkward musical interlude, etc.

That ain’t hay — and what’s there to show for it? A clumsy confessional comedy about a 55-year-old TV writer named Louie (Peter Scolari) who thinks he’s Peter Pan. Unable to jumpstart his stalled career, Louie holes up in the Beverly Hills house he can no longer afford to keep up and makes petulant demands on his small but loyal army of enablers.

His agent (John Treacy Egan, bearing up) has to pony up with the financing for his abortive writing projects. His young assistant (Harris Doran, grabbing most of the laughs with his droll delivery) has to jump at his every whim. His housekeeper (Liz Torres, poor thing) has to listen to all his childish complaints. Even his parents (Bob Ari and Alice Playten, a sight for sore eyes) are expected to rise from the grave to prop up his ego and give him permission to come out of the closet.

But the real pressure is on Scott (Patrick Cummings, young enough to survive this disaster), the 24-year-old “roommate” he pines for with insistent and unbecoming ardor. Having gotten it into his head that a romantic relationship with Scott will invigorate his career, not to mention his manhood, Louie pursues the poor kid with the misguided passion of a lovesick King Kong.

Well, what about the jokes? All the stereotyped characters in this wish-fulfillment fantasy keep telling Louie how hilarious he is, and how they just wish he would lighten up and get his mojo back. But the crude, rude and downright offensive jokes are beyond the pale. As if the ethnic cracks aimed at Louie’s Latina housekeeper weren’t vile enough, there’s a musical sequence at an S&M club that should have the leather boys picketing the theater.

Honestly, an autobiography would have been more gratifying — and a lot cheaper.

It Must Be Him

Peter Jay Sharp Theater; 121 seats; $65 top

Production

An Orin Wolf/Off the Aisle Prods. presentation of a play in one act by Lenny Solms. Special musical material, Larry Grossman (music) and Ryan Cunningham (lyrics). Directed by Daniel Kutner. Choreography, Wendy Seyb.

Creative

Sets, Court Watson; costumes, Laurie Churba; lighting, Joel E. Silver; sound, Duncan Edwards; production stage manager, Tom Taylor. Reviewed Aug. 31, 2010. Opened Sept. 1. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN. With Jonathan C. Kaplan, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Jessica Tyler Wright, Ryan Duncan, Edward Staudenmayer

Cast

Ana - Liz Torres Louie - Peter Scolari Scott - Patrick Cummings Leo - Bob Ari Rose - Alice Playten Myles - Harris Doran Ross John - Treacy Egan
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