Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

Comedy Is Hard!
Ivoryton Playhouse

Joyce DeWitt and Micky Dolenz
There is laughter aplenty at Ivoryton Playhouse these days, where a world premiere comedy called Comedy Is Hard! just opened. Written by Mike Reiss and starring the incomparable pair of Micky Dolenz and Joyce DeWitt, this show is hilarious and also quite endearing. Dolenz and DeWitt prove that they are truly masters at work, and they mine all the comedy in Reiss' delicious script. Credit also must go to director Jacqueline Hubbard for maintaining a level of mirth and joy from start to finish. What's also sweet about Comedy Is Hard! is that the audience comes to really care about the two main characters, so, in addition to all the laughs, there is also real heart in this play.

One of the nicest (and most unexpected) things about this show is that the well known personas of both its leads, based on their past work—Joyce DeWitt, from "Three's Comedy" and Micky Dolenz, from "The Monkees"—is rarely touched upon. Indeed, when DeWitt makes her entrance at the beginning of the show, in a wheelchair and wearing a white "old lady" wig, there is not a trace of her Janet from "Three's Company." Instead, we are treated to an actress carving out a completely new character. The same goes double for the rubber-faced Micky Dolenz and his television/pop group persona. These are not performers resting on their past laurels, but rather skilled pros in their prime who know everything about how to make an audience laugh, and their performances are quite simply marvelous.

Playwright Reiss is best known from his twenty-five years of writing for "The Simpsons," so clearly he knows more than a little about writing a good joke. But, although there are gags galore here (almost all of them hitting the mark), there is also a level of warmth amidst the humor. The play is set in a nursing home for retired actors (beautifully designed by scenic designer Daniel Nischan) and the story follows the growing relationship between the characters of Kay (Joyce DeWitt) and Lou (Micky Dolenz). Not to reveal too much, but things start out pretty rocky between them before a gradual kinship is founded.

There is also a fine supporting cast. Michael McDermott is quite good as Lou's put-upon son, and both Dorian Mendez and Michael Hotkowski find laughs as, respectively, Kay's non-English speaking attendant and a homeless man given inspiration to become an actor. Special mention must be made for the sublime Dan Coyle, who plays a fellow patient at the nursing home. Though he doesn't have a lot of lines, the ones that he does utter are so riotous that he almost threatens to steal the show from the star duo.

Still, Joyce DeWitt and Micky Dolenz are wizards at what they do and they prove to be an unbeatable pair in Comedy Is Hard!. One of the themes is the eternal question between the two lead characters of which is harder to perform, comedy or tragedy. You will have to see the show to find out the answer to that question. What is clear is that, though comedy may indeed be hard, when you have performers of the caliber of Joyce DeWitt and Micky Dolenz as your stars, they can make every laugh look effortless.

Comedy Is Hard! continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through October 12th, 2014. For tickets, please visit or call (860) 767-7318.

Photo: Rosemary Picarelli

- Zander Opper