Watching a crude and clumsy show like “Viagara Falls” pawing the stage of the elegant Little Shubert makes you want to yell “Rape!” This tasteless sex farce penned by Joao Machado and Lou Cutell has been playing all over the place, from Palm Springs to Toronto, since it opened in 2006, so there must be an audience out there for a three-characters-and-one-joke comedy about a horny septuagenarian who surprises his best friend with a sexy birthday present. But Gotham auds would be well-advised to attend in raincoats and dark glasses, lest their friends discover the depths of their low taste.
Show’s credentials may be a little dated, but they’re still legit. The two old codgers who pop a couple of Viagras to celebrate a birthday are played by a couple of comedy veterans — Bernie Kopell (the darling doc on “The Love Boat”) and Cutell (the Assman on “Seinfeld”) — who don’t need a map to find their laughs. Doesn’t hurt, either, to have Don Crichton, who picked up his comic timing on “The Carol Burnett Show,” on board as director. And lo and behold, isn’t that Bob Mackie’s signature on the garish costumes and funny graphic designs?
Corny as it is, even the initial comic setup works — up to a point — as Charley Milhouse (Cutell) knocks himself out to convince his best friend and fellow widower, Moe Crubbs (Kopell), that the sky won’t fall if they celebrate Charley’s birthday by hiring a couple of hookers.
The show’s insurmountable problem is that, instead of delivering the promised farce, which is an extremely active and inventive form of stage comedy, the playwrights sit the characters down on your basic sitcom sofa and feed them a lot of bad jokes about the indignities of old age.
And in this case, “bad” really means “bad.” One painfully awful one-liner about medical conditions like hemorrhoids, irritable bowel and incontinence is sure to follow another equally excruciating joke about those pesky male body parts that refuse to function without a booster.
Which is not to say that a bit of wit doesn’t occasionally creep into the dialogue. (Redefining an “all-nighter” as a night when you don’t have to get up to pee is actually pretty good.) It’s just to say that 99% of the gags make you gag.
The long-awaited arrival of Jacqueline Tempest, the happy hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold played by Teresa Ganzel (a dish in looks and a doll at comedy), introduces the blessed sound of another voice just in time to stop Cutell’s grating delivery from inflicting real brain damage. But while her entrance also switches the one-note subject matter of this plotless play to more authentic sex comedy, the big-boobs jokes are just as obvious and really-really bad as the ones about constipation.