Sunday, April 19, 2009

Accent on Youth - Mad Comedy Scientists Create Romance With No Heart

David Hyde Pierce [revisits his award winning role as Niles Crane? - not entirely fair] milks every laugh from some witty dialog in the otherwise unremarkable Accent on Youth, a Manhattan Theater Club production now in previews. Steven Gaye (Pierce) is a playwright with a long string of successful Broadway comedies under his belt. After rounding age 51 ( or 53 or maybe it's 54) he writes a tragedy dealing with themes of December-May romance. Attempting to cast a leading lady, Gaye meets with a much younger old flame (Rosie Benton). Sparks fly. Gaye is prepared to chuck it all and flee to Finland with his renewed love when his (much younger, naturally) assistant Linda Brown (Mary Catherine Garrison) surprisingly declares her adoration. Gaye is smitten yet again, with inspiration. Suddenly, it's forget Finland. With a new first act inspired by Brown's revelation, the play succeeds. The former assistant captures the female lead in Gaye's new play and his life. Dickie Reynolds (David Furr) a handsome, inarticulate man's man, looms in the background as the male lead in that new play. Comedy ensues.

With sometimes inspired dialog and a few characters successfully walking the edge of farce, there are laughs present here. Pierce captures them with help from Rosie Benton and Charles Kimbrough (Jim Dial from Murphy Brown) as his valet. The predictable plot, thin characters, uninspired performances from Garrison and Furr and a somewhat one dimensional performance from Pierce himself don't generate much empathy, nor much joy when all is resolved. The result is a comedy that gets laughs, but doesn't explore any new ground and doesn't produce much of that Broadway non-black comedy staple, the emotional uplift.

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