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The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall

Sam Forman's amusing play about an ambitious playwright will especially resonate with Woody Allen fans.

Dan Fogler and Charles Socarides
in The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall
(© Lisa Dozier)
"Google unto others as you would have them Google unto you" might be the moral of Sam Forman's amusing new play, The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall, now at the Lion Theatre at Theatre Row, about Henry (Charles Socarides), a 29-year-old would-be playwright who expends more energy schmoozing and seeking "connections" than applying fingers to keyboard.

Brainstorming with his stoner college buddy, would-be composer Will (Dan Fogler, who can be adorably beatific), Henry hits upon the idea of musicalizing the Woody Allen classic, Annie Hall. This brilliant concept has just one slight obstacle to overcome: Securing the master's permission.

Henry decides to take a six-degrees approach, starting with a friend-of-a-friend (a marvelously anomic yet glamorous Kate Gersten) whose father was Allen's producer. Having gleaned her entire bio online, he tracks her down at her trendy-gallery-sitting job and proceeds to gush about all her cultural touchpoints -- trashy magazines, Ernst Lubitsch, Pablo Neruda, Cole Porter -- while inventing a background that's remarkably similar to her own.

However, the audience does start to wonder why she doesn't catch on to the parroting. It also doesn't help that Socarides, who lacks the self-deprecating, nebbishy charm of an Allen, appears to be in a permanent state of hard-sell flopsweat. It's a wonder she doesn't shake this weasel off and run screaming.

If she did, however, we'd be deprived of the next level of cronyism. She's good friends with "The Tortured Genius" (Noah Bean), a celebrated young composer who -- thanks in part, perhaps, to his extensive family ties in the biz -- has already snagged the Annie Hall sinecure. This is where things get interesting -- and hilarious, thanks in large part to Bean, who is brilliant as a paragon of smug entitlement. He underplays the role, conveying the kind of "too cool for school" attitude that sucks up attention, while yielding nothing in return. Henry is smitten, of course -- but so is his longtime girlfriend, a waitress/would-be-actress who happens to be named Annie (Erica Newhouse).

While Socarides thankfully doesn't replicate Allen's vocal tics, some carryover in terms of gesture and general mood would help. Even on a steady dose of Klonopin, this guy is way too hyper, and the net effect can be exhaustingly one-note. Still, Forman and director Sam Gold have packed plenty of "Woodyisms" into this homage -- the scene titles, interstitial music, narration breaks, and, as prologue and epilogue, corny jokes.


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