Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's
Also see Richard's review of The Christmas Ballet
The newest theater company in San Francisco is presenting as its premiere play the zany comedy It Had to Be You. This two character madcap comedy features two of San Francisco's veteran actors, Kimberly Richards and Louis Parnell. Both actors did the show fifteen years ago in a tiny North Beach Theatre, Bannam Place, to sold out audiences.
Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna have been writing plays, sketches and films for nearly 40 years and they recently appeared in San Francisco where they performed the audition scene of this play in their own biography concert. Most of their plays, including It Had to Be You, smack of the smart New York style comedies of the 1970s and '80s. The title of this show refers to the moment when Taylor first met Bologna at an audition, which started the romance that has lasted all these years.
It Had to Be You was first produced on Broadway in 1981, with Taylor and Bologna playing the roles, and in 1989 they made the romantic comedy into a film. Since then, regional companies all over the country have presented the lighthearted play. This is no Long Day's Journey in the Night, but strictly nonsense and jocular fun.
The plot is very simple. Theda Blau (she was named after Theda Bara), a real kook, comes to an audition for the role of spokesperson for a cocktail mix. She is introduced to many of the unseen producers in rapid succession. Theda starts her one line zingers about not remembering any of the names by saying, "When you sleep with a lot of guys, it's hard to keep track of their names, not that I am that type of the person." And the one liners just keep coming.
Vita Pignoli (Louis Parnell) is smitten with her, for some unknown reason, and he introduces himself. He believes her zaniness has great potential for certain commercials. She invites him to her downstairs apartment with a possibility of sex. However, she wants him to read her "masterpiece" based on a tragedy of a Russian woman. She also hopes Vito can connect her with a publisher. The writing of the Russian drama is pure tripe. Vito thinks it is awful and he knows, since he has an instinct for lousy writing.
It Had to Be You is full of quirky, surrealistic turns while the two are in the messy studio apartment (tink of the James Caan-Kathy Bates film Misery to get an idea). Vito is trapped in an exasperating way, and those zingers just keep coming, like Vito's line "Thank God for all the years I didn't know you. You should sleep with a gay guy just to remind him why he's gay."
Smartly directed by Bill English and stylishly acted by Kimberly Richards and Louis Parnell, the play just whizzes by in this two hour with intermission production. Richards plays Theda completely off the wall. Her audition piece at the beginning is marvelous. Her Theda is shameless and reminiscent of an impish Imogene Coca, turning into a very sweet person toward the end the comedy. Parnell is perfect as the harassed and sarcastic Vito. Both play well against each other.
Bill English, along with Andy Schrimger, has put together a really wonderful messy basement apartment on stage, full of bric a brac and posters (including a wild caricature print of Theda Bara in the center of the stage). The new Playhouse Theatre is also a very comfortable proscenium type auditorium that seats 299 persons.
It Had to Be You plays through January 9 at the The Playhouse, 536 Sutter Street, San Francisco, off Powell. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets can also be purchased at TIX box office on Union Square or Ticketweb.com
Their next production will be Rebecca Gilman's first play, The Glory of Living, followed by the west coast premiere of her dark comedy The Smell of the Kill.