Alice Playten, Peter Scolari, and Bob Ari in It Must Be Him
(© Carol Rosegg)
Alice Playten, Peter Scolari, and Bob Ari in It Must Be Him
(© Carol Rosegg)
In It Must Be Him, the dismal new comedy at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, writer Kenny Solms has pieced together what appears to be something of an autobiographical work. Unfortunately, this new play from the Emmy Award winner -- who wrote many of the great sketches for The Carol Burnett Show -- simply doesn't generate any real laughs.

Louie (the hard-working Peter Scolari), an erstwhile top-of-the-heap boob-tube scribe, has fallen on hard times and is trying to sell his latest romantic-comedy screenplay. His agent Russ (John Treacy Egan) coaxes him into making a man-man narrative of the more traditional man-woman plot he's been concocting. Russ' argument is that the same-sex premise will be more honest since Louis himself is homosexual and keeps bringing young men like hunk Scott (Patrick Cummings) into his life on a revolving-door basis.

Louie tries to incorporate the sex change into his deficient script, but in the revising neither he -- nor Solms -- finds anything any more honest or illuminating to impart. Instead, by incorporating an additional clutch of feeble gags and less sense of dramatic structure, Solms simply veers into tepid comic territory.

Moreover, once the revamped film incarnation of Louie's disintegrating life is jettisoned, he gets the urge to turn the woozily meandering tale into a Broadway-bound musical (for which composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Ryan Cunningham contribute songs -- the most memorable being a ditty about sadomasochism complete with whips, rubber marital aids, and Wendy Seyb's choreography for men in studded leather accessories).

While director Daniel Kutner has amassed an unusually large and talented cast for an Off-Broadway production -- including the ill-used or under-used Bob Ari, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Harris Doran, Ryan Duncan, Jonathan C. Kaplan, Edward Staudenmayer, and Jessica Tyler Wright -- only two performers make any real impression. Alice Playten, as Louis' deceased mother who comes back in fantasy sequences, gets to deliver the script's one bona fide yuk; while Liz Torres, as Louie's maid, musters the talent to make a rayon purse of a sow's-ear role (and even revisits her cabaret past by lustily singing a snatch of the title anthem that Vikki Carr popularized back in the day).

On the plus side, theater lovers might also enjoy Court Watson's convincing multiple-use set, which features covers of the Redhead, Donnybrook, Bajour, and Take Me Along original cast LPs -- as well as a framed poster of the colossal flop, Lestat, among others.

Still, there's nothing anyone involved in this production can do to transform It Must Be Him into a must-see -- or even a might-see.