Love, Sex and the IRS
Also see Robert's review of Big River
I'm happy to report that a man in a dress can still be a very funny sight.
And that Southern Illinois' Broadway Center of Arts is still a highly reliable theatrical venue: happily playing opposite all the scrambling troupes in St. Louis, from a safe distance, twenty miles the other side of the Mississippi.
Belleville, Illinois is the sensible ranch-house side of St. Louis, different from our sprawling Missouri suburbs in that they have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented actors and actresses to take their turn on two or three stages in the Metro East. Or, maybe it's not the vast supply of fine performers; another reason for the consistently high level of quality on those few stages might be the remarkable lack of producers there, to mutter Fools, I'll Show Them All! as dozens of producers this side of the river have said in moments of haste.
Lately, on the Missouri side, this has led to any number of very desperate casting calls in recent weeks. In any case, for whatever reason, the producer population seems much better managed in Southern Illinois. For the sake of balance, this department would be happy to round up six or eight of our own population of feral Ziegfelds who've taken the "Show Me" call too literally. Turn them loose on the "Land of Lincoln," that's what I say.
But we were discussing farce, which is very different from having too many producers in St. Louis, Mo. In Belleville, Jon Courtney is the aforementioned man-in-a-dress, in Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore's yummy show, and it doesn't hurt that his "Leslie" is a big, goofy, handsome guy under that wig, with his own very funny version of The Odd Couple's sinus attacks whenever the jig is nearly up. And, as in any good farce, the jig is nearly up at fairly regular intervals. You might boil two whole cartons of eggs, one at a time, by the major laughs in the script.
Bradley J. Behrman is quite splendid as the clever roommate caught in a horrible web of deceit, and dragging everyone else in with him. One of the best features of Love, Sex And The IRS is that it throws accident on top of artifice with a five-gallon bucket, also at regular intervals. Near the end of it all, Mr. Behrman is very funny: exhausted, just watching all the cars spin out their last few laps, before the inevitable pile-up.
Amy Kinsella (as the proper matron) gets the funniest running gag of the night, being escorted through non-existent double-doors out "right" into the kitchen (which, unfortunately, has only a "single" door). Tara Schulze and Eileen Lubinski are very good as the boys' girlfriends.
Randy Manning, who directs almost perfectly, is sucked into that nightmarish position of playing a major supporting role (as the IRS investigator), a role he took in the final week of rehearsal. He is terrific as Mr. Spinner: funny, foolish, with beautiful timing and a great "drunken" manner.
The only quibble here is with a major scene change that seems to accomplish remarkably little, but stops the action cold for several minutes in the dark, about a quarter past starting time. Why the actors on stage couldn't just re-dress their apartment with the requisite odds and ends during their dialogue is something Mr. Manning could have pondered, if he hadn't been busy replacing one of his actors role at the last minute. But thank goodness he did fill that role, and beautifully.
Chrissie Kinsella is also very funny as the appalling landlady with the Drano voice. The cast is ably filled-out by Jeffrey P. Breckel with support from Bill Conklin.
Love, Sex And The IRS continues at the Broadway Center of Arts through April 24th. Contact them at www.BroadayCenterofArts.com or at (618) 233-0431.