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It Had to Be You 

A crowd-pleasing comedy that doesn't strain any brain cells

Wednesday, Dec 24 2003
If you're opening a new theater near Union Square, your inaugural production probably should be a crowd-pleasing comedy that doesn't strain any brain cells. That's what the Playhouse delivers with It Had to Be You, a 1981 romantic (if surreal) comedy penned by husband-and-wife team Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna. Vito Pignoli is a commercial producer -- TV, not stage -- who finds himself trapped in struggling B-movie actress Theda Blau's apartment on Christmas Eve after being charmed by her earlier offbeat audition for a cocktail-mix ad. Proving more delusional than offbeat, Theda imagines her age range from 13 to 80 and her bust size from flat to 44. She's also sure that her comedy about a tortured and crucified Russian woman will be a hit, if she ever finishes it. Vito is divorced, estranged from his son, and afraid of commitment. Slapstick gives way to "poignant" stories from their pasts -- and guess how it all ends up. Veteran Bay Area actors Louis Parnell and Kimberly Richards reprise their roles from a 1988 performance and nail most of the jokes, thanks to Bill English's quick-paced direction. But the script, surface as it is, still reveals touches of anger and psychological pain (beyond the tragic stories). Instead of dipping into these moments, Parnell and Richards bob along on an emotionally shallow river. Leopard-print costumes (Lauren English) and an equally funky set design (by Bill English and Andy Scrimger) make this a well-packaged production, especially with John Behrens' crystal-clear video projections. Vito says it well: When you come to the theater, "It doesn't matter if you're a man on the street or intelligent, you want to laugh."

About The Author

Karen McKevitt


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