Los Angeles Theater Review: I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES (Falcon Theatre)

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by Tom Chaits on October 26, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES OUGHT TO BE BETTER

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone proclaiming I Ought To Be In Pictures to be Neil Simon’s finest hour, but even with its shortcomings it deserves much better treatment that it is currently receiving at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank.  Unlike his mid-60’s smashes Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple (which were played for the big laugh), I Ought To Be In Pictures ushered in the 80’s on a kinder, gentler Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of I Ought To Be In Pictures at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank (Los Angeles)comedic note, thereby setting the stage for Simon’s even more character driven, reality based shows (i.e. the Brighton Beach trilogy); ones which derive their humor from grounded performances and relatable real life experience. In this case, director Gregg W. Brevoort seems to be stuck in the 60’s as he abandons any trace of subtlety, opting only for the big guffaw.  Just one problem – there aren’t any.

Herb (Robert Wuhl) is an unmotivated, semi-successful scribe living in a rented California bungalow in sunny Los Angeles. He’s a guy who has trouble with commitment – whether it be to his girlfriend Steffy (Kelly Hare), his writing, his numerous failed marriages, or his forgotten children. When his daughter Libby (Genevieve Joy) shows up unannounced to reconnect with her long lost father, he is forced to confront his foibles and snap out of it. He can take pride in the love and attention he has showered on his flourishing orange and lemons trees, but when it comes to his children his parental accomplishments are virtually non-existent.

It’s a classic tale of nurture and redemption which asks the age old question of whether or not it’s ever too late to right the wrongs you’ve perpetrated in your life. As written, the three-character outing is a low-key yarn whose wit and charm can only be fully realized when the chuckles emanate from truthful and honest portrayals, instead of actors hammering home the set-up and racing toward the Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of I Ought To Be In Pictures at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank (Los Angeles)punch line. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of hammering and racing occurring on the stage and, as a result, very few laughs in front of it. Mr. Wuhl’s program bio states that this is his second stage performance in Los Angeles. It shows. For the most part he looks completely uncomfortable in his own skin, especially in his “listening” moments. He freezes his body in anticipation of his next line and doesn’t begin to move again until his mouth does (his first stage performance was a one-man show, so it is assumed that this same problem did not happen since there was no “listening” required). With the exception of a heartfelt telephone conversation at the end of the play, his performance is extremely mannered, ringing false at every turn.

The two women do not fare much better. While the pair are more at home on stage than their co-star, they seem to exist in a world of their own with no need for the other actors. In fact, that’s one of the major problems with Mr. Brevoort’s direction. Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of I Ought To Be In Pictures at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank (Los Angeles)All of the actors are talking “at” each other and not “to” each other. They don’t connect, so we don’t either. It’s hard to care about them when they are simply actors on a stage and not actual living breathing people. Further diminishing their likeability quotient, Ms. Genevieve plays Libby with an abundance of  “golly-gosh” enthusiasm that’s grows quickly tiresome, and Ms. Hare’s Steffy conjures the bland and inconsequential sit-com moms of yesteryear better suited for a cereal commercial than Neil Simon.

Audiences have come to expect that the technical aspects of Falcon productions will be top drawer and there is no disappointment here. Jeffrey McLaughlin’s bungalow set – with prop design by Heather Ho – is appropriately appointed with a clear sense of time and place. The lighting design (Jeremy Pivnick), sound design (Robert Arturo Ramirez) and costumes (Joanie Coyote), while straightforward, are all well-realized.

I Ought To Be In Pictures ought to be so many things it isn’t: Funny, heartwarming, poignant, and touching.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of I Ought To Be In Pictures at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank (Los Angeles)

photos by Chelsea Sutton

I Ought To Be In Pictures
Falcon Theatre in Burbank
scheduled to end on November 11, 2012
for tickets, call ­(818) 955-8004 or visit http://www.FalconTheatre.com

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