By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Lilly Lampe
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
Louie Wexler (Peter Scolari), a comedy writer in his mid 50s, did not win an Emmy at the recent awards. His glory days well behind him, he counts The Osmonds Celebrate Christmas as his last major credit. In Kenny Solms's It Must Be Him, this former boy wonder has long since matured into a grizzled Peter Pan, living in dilapidated luxury in the Hollywood Hills with a sassy Mexican cleaning woman (Liz Torres), a sex-obsessed assistant (Harris Doran), and a twink housemate (Patrick Cummings) who politely resists his advances.
This might seem sufficient material for drama, but Solms, with an assist from composer Larry Grossman and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, has attempted to cram three or four or five separate scripts into a 75-minute show. Under Daniel Kutner's direction, domestic comedy gives way to fantasy scenes in which Louie's dead parents and living brother appear. The action then pauses for a reading of Louie's dreadful screenplay, again for a workshop of his frightful musical, and again as he dreams up a reality show.
Solms's talents lie in sketch writing and one-liners. Many of his observations about showbiz earn a laugh, as when an actress, called upon to attempt some dialect, replies, "I don't do accents. For special skills I only drive." But however fitfully amusing, these quips never add up to a play.
The show is both improved and weakened by Scolari. An able comic actor, he delivers the play's more ridiculous speeches with sensitivity and pluck. Yet the man he embodies seems far too intelligent and self-aware to write the dreck that Solms supplies for him, particularly a number from Louie's tuner that involves oversize anal beads. Yet those props are the least of It Must Be Him's absurdities. That list would include ghosts, car chases, a murder, and the notion that you could open a musical in L.A.