With a title like “I’m Connecticut,” you’d think Mike Reiss’s frosh full-length playwriting effort would be more suited to a public service announcement for state tourism. But this preem comedy at Connecticut Repertory Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs is as wacky, fast-paced and sweet as a stretched-out episode of “The Simpsons,” the skein on which the scribe has been a writer and producer for decades. Gags and surreal interludes are nonstop, but what makes this more than a one-off for state natives is that it is a sweet romance as well.
Still, for the short play to travel beyond Connecticut’s square borders, Reiss has to work on expanding the characters’ conflicts, make the romance something more than generic and have something a little more to say beyond its single theme. Clocking in at 75 minutes, there’s time to expand and explore.
Still, helmed with sketch comedy speed and largeness by Paul Mullins and supported by its well-seasoned comic actors — including “Three’s Company”‘s Joyce DeWitt and theater vet Jerry Adler — the piece is damn funny.
Story centers on a geeky, unlucky-in-love, twentysomething neuroscientist from Simsbury, Conn. (“It sounds like a computer simulation of a town”) named Marc (a wry and likable Harris Doran). The character, who makes nice with the aud, calls to mind Woody Allen’s film persona with his Jewish angst and romantic longing — coupled with feelings of inadequacy, because Marc comes from Connecticut, land of steady habits, sanity and blandness.
He falls for Diane (Maggie Sulka), a Southern peach of a receptionist at a speed-dating service where Marc has just failed to impress several Cosmo gals. When he takes her to the Upper West Side apartment he shares with his early-stages-of-Alzheimers’ grandfather (Adler), a little lie Marc tells helps win Diane over. But when the fib is later revealed, she splits and Marc is back bemoaning his lack of color as a native of the most boring state in the union.
That running gag becomes the plays raison d’etre and provides fodder for much of the show’s many surreal bits, including actors portraying various states. (If you wondered which state has the biggest and smallest penis, wonder no more.) Mark Twain, who built a house and lived in Hartford for years yet failed to write more than a sentence about the state, also makes an appearance, all adding to Marc’s torment. Even nice-guy Canada gets in the act.
Despite all that, there’s no doubt that in the end, the man with sensible shoes and smile will get the girl — which is celebrated by a big musical production number, just for the Connecticut heck of it.