You know you're enjoying something when time flies and you forget where you are.
Thus it was at opening night of the comedy/farce, Love, Sex and the IRS, at the Forum at Stage West on Thursday. Ziiiip. Before you knew it, the play was over, the lights were coming back on, and it felt as though you'd just gotten to your seat. That feeling defines a good time.
Never mind that the 1979 play about two guys pretending to be married to wiggle out of higher federal income taxes is on the cusp of becoming an anachronism, since men are getting married every day and just waiting for the feds to approve. It's still funny as heck to see a talented actor such as Dan Brijbag cavort around the stage in high heels, a cheesy taffeta dress and makeup so thick it would be the envy of any U.S. 19 roadside "professional woman." With zany moves and sounds reminiscent of early Jerry Lewis and looks like a young Montgomery Clift, Brijbag is a joy to behold.
Brijbag plays Leslie, the roommate of the very serious Jon (Juan Triana), who has for the past few years reported his roomy with the gender-neutral name as his wife. Now IRS investigative agent Floyd Spinner (Gary Depp) is coming to demand an explanation for why Leslie, who had reported himself as "M" as in "male" all those years suddenly became an "F" on all the more recent forms (there's a semi-plausible explanation). Jon persuades Leslie to dress up like a woman to trick the agent, and the hilarity starts.
True, the plot sounds like a one-trick pony, but playwrights William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore turn it into a whole herd, with twists and turns that ramp up the fun in every scene.
Director Leanne Germann found a stellar cast, put them all in the right places, and guided them at a pleasing pace, with the help of set designer/co-builder Jeff Germann, who arranged the small Forum stage so every action can clearly be seen; light designer Brijbag, whose cues were spot on; Ms. Germann's costumes, which help set the time and place just right; and the whole cast's contribution to the set dressings that place the action squarely in the 1960s/70s (a Steve Martin comedy album, the crispy new Beatles' Abbey Road poster, a red corded phone, a faux leather wet bar, etc.).
Betsy Glasson is a doll as Vivian Tracthman, Jon's very moral mom, who drops in from out of town for a visit and is outraged that her darling boy is living in sin with his plug-ugly wife, Leslie. In comedy, timing is everything, and Ms. Glasson and Depp are its masters, giving just the right amount of air before delivering a line that will bring down the house.
Nicole Cavalani is a lovely Kate Dennis, Jon's fiancee and Leslie's lover (more twists and turns there). Maurice Batista is a hoot as Mr. Jansen, the nosy landlord. Melissa Triana makes the most of her first featured role as Connie, Leslie's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend. And John Masterton makes himself obvious in the minuscule role of Arnold Grunion, Vivian Trachtman's slickly suave new friend.
The intimate Forum at Stage West is the perfect setting for plays like Love, Sex and the IRS. The audience can see facial expressions and hear every word clearly, even from the back rows — especially with this talented and seasoned cast and crew, who know how to make the most of what they have.