On the opening weekend of the Crighton Player’s current run of Neil Simon’s first comedy success, “Come Blow Your Horn,” fate decreed that my guest and I would be pleasantly trapped by violent hail and thunderstorms while dining at The Woodlands Marriott’s Tuscany Restaurant. Thus, it would not be until a week later that we could enjoy our share of the laughs now being supplied in this Crighton Theatre production directed by Grace Thompson. It was generally worth the wait.
The eclectic, mixed-modern set (highlighted by a vintage lava lamp), nicely depicts the New York City bachelor pad of irresponsible playboy, Alan Baker (Brian Smith). We meet flouncing Peggy (Jennifer Rebecca White), one of Alan’s many girlfriends, and we meet his immature younger brother, Buddy, played to good comic effect by Joey Lamont. Buddy, rebelling against his parents, has left home with the intention of moving in with Alan. The comedy gets off to a slow start with these three; and there were times when the lava lamp was the most interesting thing happening on the stage. I admit to some nervous first act moments wondering if the show would ever catch fire. That question was nicely answered by the explosive arrival of the boy’s dad, Mr. Baker, played with attention-getting comic timing and flair by Dale Trimble. Trimble showed a great gift for delivering lines of Simonesque sarcasm as Baker rails against the idle ways of his good-for-nothing son, Alan, who is all to often absent from his assigned place in the family wax fruit business. Worse yet, dad has fears that Buddy is in danger of becoming a “bum” like his brother. Alan, meanwhile, is not above lying to his parents, his girlfriends and his business contacts as the need arises. At the same time he encourages Buddy to pose as a producer for a first romantic fling.
Another of Alan’s girlfriends is Connie, cutely played by Kristi Easter. Connie is waiting for a big break (or preferably marriage to Alan) while she finds work performing such minor commercial bits as singing “Why Not Take All of Me” dressed as a sausage. She longs to have great talent, but Alan comforts her saying “You only need it to be good, not to be a star!” How true! The play shows its dated charm as innocent Connie, losing patience with Alan’s lack of commitment, asks, “Will we walk down the aisle or to the bedroom?”
The comedy rises to an even higher level in Act II when talented Jamie Higgs arrives on the scene as Mrs. Baker, with a hilarious characterization of the whining Jewish mother, distraught at Buddy’s leaving home. (“I’ve got no luck—never had any—never will!”). When she invades the pad the laughs are abundant, and she rules the stage even when alone answering riotous phone calls from her son’s assorted girlfriends and searching for pencils to record their messages. There was appreciative applause the first time she left the stage.
Miss White’s characterization as Peggy seemed, at times, a bit over-the-top with prancing flirtations, but I confess it began to grow on me. Mr. Smith’s performance puzzled me for a while. He had good voice and good command of the dialogue, but I couldn’t put my finger on why something seemed to be missing. By Act Two I realized what the distraction was, and it brought to mind one of the biggest problems faced by actors: What do you do with your hands? Smith, unfortunately, opted to punctuate nearly every line of his well-memorized dialogue with hand gestures. The unnaturalness of this was a great distraction, and often took the focus off the witty dialogue of Mr. Simon. Never the less, Act Two, Act Three (and Buddy’s “loud” plaid sport coat) provided plenty of laughs, especially when Mom and Dad were on the scene.
(The Courier 3.30.05)
(The Villager 3.31.05)