Also see John's review of Bat Boy: The Musical
Come Blow Your Horn tells the story of perennial bachelor Alan Baker. He enjoys a plush life filled with a merry-go-round of women, and manages to show up only occasionally at work because his father is the boss. His life is changed when his 21-year-old brother Buddy "runs away from home" to move in with him. Their parents are incensed at the thought of a compliant Buddy becoming like his "bum" of a brother who is in his 30s and unmarried. In the argument that follows, both brothers end up "fired" from the family business. In living together Buddy and Alan both learn something from each other, and Alan learns there may be more to life than late nights and nameless dates.
The action all takes place in one roomthe living room of a swinging 1960s bachelor in New York City. The set for a production of this show should get a chuckle for its retro nod to the '60s vibe, and give a strong sense of what ladies' man Alan Baker is all about. It should be impressive but trite. The scenic design for this production of Come Blow Your Horn, however, is sorely disappointing. There is nothing chic or mod or swinging about this living room set other than the scripted couch that turn into a bed. There are too many different types of wood and fabric textures, and no real color theme or flair. It is a boring 1960s apartment with little sense of style.
The dialogue is well rehearsed, and the pacing is briskactually too brisk in some of the scenes between Alan and his girlfriend Connie, and Alan and his brother Buddy. There is sometimes a complete lack of organic response time because the lines are delivered so quickly, and the play suffers for it. With speed comes poorer phrasing, shorter pauses and the softening of the word emphasis that sets up the actually comedy of Simon's writing. Simon has provided very clever dialogue for Alan and Connie as they banter about the issues of sex and marriage. They talk all around the issue with humorous euphemisms used like gentle weapons as they thrust and parry their way through their lovers' quarrels. Rushing through these scenes makes no sense. They are important because they establish a bond Alan has not had with other women. We hear in the words of their arguments that Connie and Alan are evenly matched in intelligence and humor, thus giving the reason why Connie is the only girl Alan will not be content to just bed.
Matthew William Chizever is convincingly in control as ladies' man Alan Baker. His New York accent wanders in degrees of thickness during the show, though it is thickest during the first five minutes of the play. He has the "player" part of his character down, but is a bit tense in the role. At the beginning of the play he is missing the joie de vivre of a man living the 1960s version of la vida loca. This is especially important because we need to see him completely change places emotionally with younger brother Buddy in the second act as he comes into his own. Christian Castro is cute as Buddy, winding his way from the repressed, well behaved son to the colorful, misbehaved man-about-town. His transformation in the "Cha-cha-cha" is quite entertaining.
Erica Lusting is a bit too passive as Connie, and needs to punch the parts of the show that give her character the edge over Alan, and show that she sees through Alan's hype. Connie is too smart to be passive, and knows Alan for the potentially good man he is, despite the fact that he is wrapped up in the lifestyle of a callow playboy. Ferrari St. Paul is well cast as Peggy. She makes the character perhaps easy but not cheap and, though dim, well intentioned and likeable. Peggy is not a bad girl, just the wrong girl, and St. Paul plays the part as exactly that.
Kevin Reilley is wonderful as Mr. Baker, wielding anger and guilt with the appropriate amount of weight at the needed times. Phyllis Spear is more of a caricature in her portrayal of Mrs. Baker. She plays the mother as older and more physically weary than is intended. To the mother, complaining is a way of life that has no relation to how happy and healthy she is at a given moment. It is a way of expressing she is alive, and should not be interpreted so literally in the character. The interpretation and not the chronological age of the actress, makes her seem a good ten years older than the husband.
Despite the fact that Come Blow Your Horn was written in 1961, the writing holds up beautifully. The play survives the test of time better than Simon's Barefoot In The Park though it is not as well known. This production as the Stage Door has some minor flaws, but is still a welcome chance to see a great Neil Simon piece.
Come Blow Your Horn will be appearing at the Stage Door Theatre through March 7, 2010. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoortheatre.com.
*Designates a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.