At the opening night party of "Love, Sex and the I.R.S.", director Lee Garrow said he was worried that he wouldn't be able to cast this show. Farcical comedy requires impeccable timing, as well as a knack for physical comedy and extreme characterization. Garrow found the cast, and "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S." is very funny.
Like "The Odd Couple," roommates Jon (Jim Oxborrow) and Leslie (Tom Althouse) compliment each other perfectly as the suave guy and nerdish sidekick, respectively. Patty Silva as Jon's fiance, Kate, is one of the highlights of the show, superbly portraying the all-important third banana, reminiscent of classic sitcom characters like Ethel Mertz, Rhoda Morgenstern and Janet Wood. Every farce requires a solid setup, and the trio does a first-rate job at allowing the audience to empathize with them before all hell breaks loose.
Leslie and Kate are having an affair, complicating Kate's upcoming marriage to Jon. As Leslie panics, which brings on an annoying, honking "sinus problem," Jon arrives home, almost catching the two in the act. Perry Kunin, as Jansen the landlord, gives an inspired performance as a Schneider/Mr. Roper character who is adamant that unmarried couples cannot live in the building. Convinced something is going on, Kunin heightens the humor with every brewsky-in-hand, ill-timed, surprise visit.
Beth Garrow (from left), Tom Althouse, Jim Oxborrow and Patty Silva perform a scene from “Love, Sex and the I.R.S.”
JACK GRACE photo
Before Leslie and Kate can confess their secret, Jon receives a phone call that he and his wife are being audited by the I.R.S. The problem is that he's not married and his spouse, Leslie, is a man. After agreeing to dress in drag in order to dupe the unsuspecting Mr. Spinner (David Negaard), Althouse brings down the house with his trashy appearance as a 6-foot-plus woman in a tight leopard print mini and three-inch heels.
After the paperwork issues are rectified, Jon foolishly suggests "it's too bad," Mr. Spinner can't stay for dinner. Spinner accepts the invitation, bringing on an entire evening of deception. Negaard's out-of-type performance as the uptight conservative pencil pusher is fantastic. When combined with eventually playing drunk, he takes a character that could be overlooked, and adds an extra layer of laugh-out-loud moments to the already funny production. The key to a great farce is just when you think nothing more could go wrong, something new does. Beth Garrow's surprise visit as Mrs. Trachtman, Jon's mother, is a slam-dunk comedy masterpiece. Upon meeting Leslie, in all his glory, mom passes out from the shock and proceeds to start drinking after being revived with the aid of Limburger cheese.
In the second act, based upon which lie was told to whom, the players are ushered in and out of rooms like a Chinese fire drill in order to maintain the reuse. A recurring gag in the farce is Leslie's choice to make mung chowder gumbo for dinner, which apparently involves tuna, molasses, cream and vinegar. Like a bubbling pot, Althouse wisely tempers his exasperation, saving an inevitable blow up for late in the show. The final straw is when Leslie's girlfriend, Connie (Julianna Scharnhorst), shows up to find out why he has been avoiding her. Oxborrow ably plays the straight man amidst all this chaos, maintaining his cool, always armed with a new lie. After Scharnhorst is shocked by Leslie's appearance, Jon explains that he just came out of the closet, which is Connie's fault, and all the drunken strangers are "from the home." Scharnhorst has been making me laugh since her Baldwin High School years. She has a natural gift for comedy, and with a few breaks and a little more training, don't be surprised if she pops up in a sitcom or film someday.
Mrs. Trachtman, convinced that they're all going to burn in hell, storms out, only to return with a homeless Justice of the Peace (Russ Taft), hell-bent on making Leslie an honest woman. Taft's Foster Brooks-like portrayal as the shady Mr. Grunion adds final punctuation to the non-stop laughs. No one wants to hear how "The Hangover," or other absurd comedies are resolved, so I'll leave the rest - as well as many additional plot twists - a secret. If shows like "Seinfeld" make you unnerved, "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S." may not be a good fit, but on the other hand, if the spastic guy behaved like a normal person, it wouldn't be a farce.
* "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S." by William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, directed by Lee Garrow, continues through this weekend. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets range from $17 to $28 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information call 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats online at mauionstage.com.
The difference between Maui and big city comedy is that, in the latter, the actors are paid and they have the luxury to perform opposite each other for years, if not a decade. The rhythm between those longtime castmates makes all the difference. Saturday's performance of "Broadway's Next H!t Musical" was comedy perfection. I have seen many funny shows at the MACC over the past year, but aside from Bill Cosby, "BNHM" was the tightest and most polished comedy I have seen in a very long time. The "Phony" award wining musical, "If Can Can, If No Can No Can," was the suggestion of local stand-up comedian and actor, Jason Strahn of Power Up Comedy. The "BNHM" tour may not return to Maui, but the belly laughs will remain. Mahalo to whoever decided to invite the flawlessly funny troupe of Robert Z. Grant, Deborah Rabbai, Rob Schiffman, Gregg Triggs, and Rebecca Virgil to the Castle Theater.
ProArts returns in October with the comedy, "Bermuda Avenue Triangle" by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, directed by Kristi Scott. Two widows are set up in an upscale Las Vegas retirement condo by their career-oriented daughters. Trapped by years of unhappiness, Fannie (Barbara Sedano) weeps and Tess (Sharyn Stone) does nothing but complain. All that changes when the two ladies cross paths with the charming scoundrel, Johnny Paolucci (Scott Newman), who rocks both their worlds. Fannie and Tess undergo a grand metamorphosis from being two, unhappy, complaining biddies into a pair of glamorous golden girls. The moral of the story: "There may be snow on the roof, but there's still fire in the furnace."
* Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 11 through 27 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $22, with kama'aina discounts for Hawaii residents scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12; and Thursdays, Oct. 17 and 24. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550.
Just in time for Halloween, King Kekaulike High School will present "Lady Dracula" by Tim Kelly, and based on the writings of Bram Stoker. Mina, a victim of Count Dracula, has searched for a young man who would resemble her first love, Jonathan Harker. She finds him in a teacher who opens a school for brilliant students. Lady Dracula keeps to the shadows except when thirst arouses her to prey upon victims. The school is then invaded by the police and a vampire-hunting Van Helsing descendant.
* Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and at 3 p.m. Sundays at the King Kekaulike High School cafetorium. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 students and available at the door only one half-hour before the show.
Maui OnStage will present "I Know What You Did Last Rocktober." This series of horror-themed nights will include Halloween burlesque by Kit Kat Club Cabaret, Maui's "Thriller Dancers," the Kihei Charter School dancers, free horror film nights, and the annual "Rocky Horror Picture Show" party.
* Kit Kat Club's "Phantome," a multimedia gothic fantasy show, will be in performance at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26, and general admission tickets are $25 (plus applicable fees). Admission is free for the movie nights, 7 p.m. Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 at the Historic Iao Theater. For more information about "Rocktober," visit www.mauionstage.com.