KPBS AIRDATE: MARCH 3, 1999
Imagine the ultimate bachelor pad, circa 1961. The mere term ‘bachelor pad’ smacks of 1961. No, it doesn’t have a lava lamp; those came later. But it does have beanbag chairs (orange and teal, of course) and a remote clicker that does triple-duty. It doesn’t flip TV channels. But it dims the lights, starts a romantic record on the hi-fi and kindles the fake-fire. Ahhh, now that’s retro. Throw in a couple of smarmy bachelor come-ons and some zinger jokes, and relax. You’re in the hands of the undisputed master. Neil Simon, that is, in his very first full-length comedy, “Come Blow Your Horn,” written almost 40 years ago. The situations are so dated, they’re uproarious. But the characters are timeless. Take the 30 year-old man who can’t commit. Or his kid brother who idolizes him. And don’t forget the kvetchy Jewish mother, and the explosive, disappointed father whose sons fail to live up to his expectations.
It’s all about parental control and leaving home; sowing oats and growing up. But don’t look for heavy messages here. In Simon-land, the one-liner is king.
Enjoy it for what it’s worth. The folks at North Coast Rep certainly have.
Everyone’s obviously had a grand old time putting this together, but the horn they’re blowing is a bit off-key. Marty Burnett’s set is a hoot, and the interlude music is just perfect; I especially liked the mambo version of “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein.”
But honestly, someone has to tell North Coast Rep that Neil Simon wrote semi-autobiographical pieces about his very Jewish, New York family. These plays are written in dialect, for gosh sakes. There’s only so much one can universalize. These are Jewish characters who talk New York Jewish talk. This production might as well be taking place in Iowa. There is only one actor onstage who seems to be in a Neil Simon play, set on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and that’s Rona Gold, who is a blessedly Jewish mother. However, she’s married to someone who seems vaguely Latino, somewhat bemused and definitely understated, which is to say, worlds, cultures and universes away from the bombastic Jewish businessman Neil Simon wrote. This is a very funny character, but there’s little humor in Tony Eisenhower’s portrayal; he’s certainly no patriarch who makes grown sons tremble.
The rest of Sean Murray’s casting and direction are commendable. The actors capture the rate and the tone, if not the intonation, of Simon’s rapid-fire dialogue. Dan Gruber is as slick and pseudo-cool as a confirmed bachelor can be. And rin Ash is spot-on as the blonde bimbette with a hilarious hairdo that adds 12 inches to her height and could be home to a full flock of baby birds.
As the wide-eyed kid brother, the wannabe writer, Sean Robert Cox is entertainingly nervous and ingenuous, and his physical comedy is great, though he could lose the lisp and the grimaces he used as The Elephant Man.
I may have a few quibbles (do I sound like a kvetchy Jewish mother?), but actually, I got a lot of laughs out of this production. So, if airheaded, light-hearted amusement is your cup of theater, have I got a show for you.
©1999 Patté Productions Inc.