Los Angeles Times - October 27th, 2007

 

Screwball, in a good way

Zany 'Tom, Dick and Harry,' penned by a father-son team, is a madcap romp that would do Preston Sturges proud.

A shot of pure screwball silliness, "Tom, Dick and Harry" evokes a bygone era of zany characters spouting rapid-fire dialogue while drinking tea in a well-appointed living room. Just add Cary Grant in a negligee to the mix, and you'd have the makings of a perfect madcap evening.

This marvelously entertaining play at the International City Theatre in Long Beach wastes no time getting down to business. Tom (Brian Stanton) and Linda (Christy Hall) are a happily married London couple looking to adopt a baby. But trouble rears its head with the arrival of Tom's goofball brothers - Dick (Nicolas Levene), a cigarette smuggler, who has two refugees from Kosovo tagging along, and Harry (Jaime Tintor), a morgue assistant, who drops by with a bag full of body parts. Matters quickly get out of hand as the hapless Tom juggles his unruly house guests while trying vainly to keep Murphy's Law at bay.

Written by the father-son team of Ray Cooney and Michael Cooney (the latter has penned a few Hollywood scripts), the play takes place in the present day but channels the spirit of Preston Sturges at his most farcical. (You can almost imagine the playwrights concocting the story in their smoking jackets, sipping Hennessey around a roaring fireplace as they devise one humorous plot twist after another.)

Genteel slapstick is the predominant tone here, and the comic momentum hurtles forward at the speed of a bullet train. The jokes tend toward zingy one-liners that are harmless enough for the youngest audience members, though the authors aren't above making the occasional dirty pun.

The actors get quite a workout dashing from one improbable crisis to another. According to the press notes, the set contains six separate entrances and exits. The insanity climaxes when a lady from the adoption agency (Kerry Michaels) arrives, sending Tom and his brothers into a tempest of activity as they try to conceal the mischief afoot.
Without a single down moment, "Tom, Dick and Harry" can feel exhausting - but in a good way. Director Todd Nielsen has choreographed the madness for maximum clarity. The dialogue sounds spontaneous and the characters' desperation - not to mention perspiration - looks real.
You couldn't call the comedy effortless - there is far too much physical flailing around to merit that adjective. But the cast projects enough charm and goodwill (as well as good looks) to distract from rough patches.
It gives little away to say there's a happy ending in which everyone gets their just reward. Such are the rules of screwball comedy. Murphy's Law gives way to good karma for our central couple as they are granted their ultimate wish. "Tom, Dick and Harry" represents goofy comedy at its best, elevating the ridiculous into something approaching sublime.

 

David Ng
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

© 2014 Ray Cooney -  created by Tedwoods