Los Angeles Theater Review: IT MUST BE HIM (Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica)

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by Sarah Taylor Ellis on July 25, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

COMING OUT THROUGH SKETCH COMEDY

It Must Be Him is in desperate need of a laugh track. Although penned by former writer of The Carol Burnett Show Kenny Solms, this semi-autobiographical romantic comedy rarely soars to those hilarious heights an audience member might expect from such a promising creative team.

Louie Wexler (David Pevsner) is an aging Emmy Award-winning writer whose career is floundering. His agent Ross (Stephen Marshall) rejects script after script, encouraging Louie to write from his own experience as a gay man instead of writing another generic heterosexual romance. Having grown up in a more repressed era, though, Louie struggles to write a meaningful gay relationship into his scripts – let alone put one into his life. Could the fix really be as simple as clicking “find and replace”?

It Must Be Him - Edgemar Center in Santa Monica

Unfortunately not. It Must Be Him is an uneven variety show, lacking a clear narrative arc. As his onstage alter-ego Louie experiments with different screenplay styles, Solms dabbles in an array of genres from TV sitcoms to game shows. Perhaps the most entertaining segment is an extended musical sequence with pastiche numbers by Larry Grossman (music) and Ryan Cunningham (lyrics). Louis’ filmic alter-ego and dream man Scott (Nick Cobey) meet at a West Side Story-like dance, which progresses into an animated montage of their budding romance. As the musical turns unexpectedly raunchy, though, the audience may find themselves laughing out of shock and stylistic dissonance rather than genuine comedy. Variety keeps the audience engaged, but a compelling story never coheres across these highly disparate sketches.

It Must Be Him - Edgemar Center in Santa Monica

Brian Drillinger’s direction conforms to the various styles required by Solm’s script, but the heightened aesthetics often make the acting feel stiff. The cast sometimes pauses for laughter that never materializes. And although the actors comprise a talented ensemble with notable prior credits, they are confined to stereotypes in this play: the struggling writer, the superficial boy toy, the Hispanic maid, the flamboyant actor. Raffel Sarabia’s costume designs – including some fantastically campy wigs – capitalize on these Hollywood tropes.

At its best, It Must Be Him is a playful homage to bygone Hollywood genres. At its worst, it is a piecemeal variety show in need of character complexity and a narrative arc to sustain a full-length play. It seems our dear struggling writer needs to grapple with the script just a little longer.

photos by Jillian Wintersteen

It Must Be Him
Edgemar Center for the Arts
2437 Main St. in Santa Monica
ends on September 4, 2011
for tickets, call 310.392-7327 or visit Edgemar

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