In For a Funny Guy, playwright Terri Collin tries to balance the angst of the unfulfilled and the blind ambition of a comedy writer with a heavy helping of one-liners, a little titillation and a romp around the living room to soften the edges.
Although For a Funny Guy is an entertaining play on the whole, there were moments when the one-liners got to be a bit much, when the glamor girl-office-worker-sex-goddess threatened to take over the show and make the storyline follow her plight. And it seemed like one groping scene between husband and wife was enough. (The first time it was endearing.)
The result is a comedy that opts for fizzle rather than punch, for stereotype when it could have gone for the gut.
For a Funny Guy revolves around comedy writer Jack Bloom, who opens his own advertising agency to grand dreams of great success after working for 16 years on a radio show with no appreciation, little pay and a heart attack. But he seals his failure when he chooses a sleazoid for a business partner to whom success spells the lush life and the BABES.
The play was chosen by Kestrel for this year's Living Playwrights Festival. Each year an original work by a local playwright is chosen to end the festival.
Collin builds genuine sympathy for Bloom. And in the lead role, T.J. Gill makes Bloom believable as a romantic and gullible soul whose absurdist sense of humor masks a minefield of self-doubt.
The funniest lines of the play are reserved for Bloom's father, Pops, played as a crotchety and charming old goat by Guy Keeny. That Pops' natural sense of humor is far superior to his son's silliness adds an edge to their scenes.
But the most touching scenes take place between Bloom and his wife, Anne, as he convinces her to gamble their home on his dreams. The two inhabit different worlds and early scenes where they talk past one another are very effective. To Anne Bloom (played by Gill's wife, Susan Gill), the house represents security in their old age. Her dreams are pragmatic. She knits sweaters to make ends meet. In the scene in Central Park, their relationship made sense as her worries lightened in the circle of his humor.
For most of the rest of the play, however, Anne Bloom teeters between noble hero and laughable stereotype, despite a sympathetic portrayal by Gill. When the couple realize they will lose the house, for instance, she drops to her knees, crying out, "I'll never be able to knit enough sweaters."
Indeed, between Mrs. Bloom on her knees and the floozy Posey-Anne Pitman (who stripteases her way into a job as a receptionist in the hopes of launching an acting career), the women in For a Funny Guy didn't seem like they were given their proper due.
For A Funny Guy
Kestrel Productions, Eckerd College, Bininger Theater. Through Saturday. 8 p.m. Tickets $12.50.