Theatre Mirror Review>"Comedy Is Hard"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Comedy Is Hard"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The historic Ivoryton Playhouse's current production is the world premiere of a brand new comedy written by Connecticut's very own, acclaimed writer of "The Simpsons", Mike Reiss. Set in a park in Manhattan and the Actors Home for retired actors in New Jersey, "Comedy is Hard" takes an affectionate look at the rivalry between a retired stand up comedian and a classical actress. Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees stars alongside Joyce DeWitt of ABC's "Three's Company" as these two adversaries who wage a constant battle of wits with each, delivering clever one liners and funny shtick to the appreciative audience. They both make a transformation in their attitudes towards each other and their lives in this home. The main argument is which is harder comedy or drama. The show is directed by Ivoryton Playhouse's artistic director, Jacqui Hubbard. She infuses her cast with high energy and keen insight into these characters, creating a world premiere of a new comedy that can be savored and enjoyed by audiences everywhere, receiving a standing ovation on their incredible job.

The gorgeous park and retirement home set is by Daniel Nischan. Jacqui blocks the show wonderfully including a wheelchair dance and a regular dance.They are both in wheel chairs during most of the show and meet during an outing in the park. Mickey's character is an 84 year old comedian, Lou Goldstein, who likes to say "Hey,that's comedy". He has a lot of one liners which are hilarious. He insults the Canadians saying his comedy act died up there, says Richard Pryor is like a black Bill Cosby, sings "Yes, We Have No Banana's" during a serious scene, uses a Harpo Marx type horn during it which cracks the audience up. At the end of act 1, Mickey scares the crap out of Joyce and keeps apologizing to her at the start of Act 2.

Joyce plays 72 year old Kay, a retired dramatic actress. She starts off as a very crabby person at the start of the show and makes a transition to a nicer person as the show progresses. She is exasperated at her Spanish speaking nurse who only says "Que" to her. Kay states that she turned down the lead for Murder She Wrote and they gave it to Angela Lansbury. Later Kay states that theatre was invented to give that bitch something to do. One of her funniest bits is when Joyce's character smokes dope and laughs uncontrollably and later describes doing Romeo and Juliet in Canada and looking at the blank faces of the audience caused her to crack up on Romeo's chest during the death scene. She becomes accustomed to Mickey's wisecracks and finally connects with him. One of the funniest moments is during "The Waiting for Godot" segment. Both Mickey and Joyce work off each other splendidly and do marvelous work with their multitude of lines. I last reviewed Joyce as the Mayor in "All Shook Up" at North Shore Music Theatre back in 2011.

Other characters are well played, too. They include Michael McDermott as Phil, Lou's serious IHOP executive son, Dorian Mendez as the Spanish nurse, Valentina, and as a mother in the park who asks Lou and Kay to watch her baby while she takes a cell phone call, and Michael Hotkowski as a homeless man who is told to go back to acting and finally appears again as Elmo in a very funny segment. The comatose resident, Mr. Holyroyd is hilariously played by Dan Coyle who speaks directly to the audience several times during the show, is used as a TV antenna, a coat rack and as a tree. He also tells you that it is intermission, the close of the show and another hilarious moment when he comes out of his stupor to save the day. I don't want to give away too many details of the show.There are many clever twists and turns to this comic script that have to be seen to be believed. So for a spectacular brand new comedy, be sure to catch "Comedy is Hard" at the Ivoryton Playhouse before time runs out.

COMEDY IS HARD (24 September to 12 October)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)767-7318 or
"Comedy Is Hard" (24 September - 12 October)
@ 103 Main Street, IVORYTON CT

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide