By: Walter Ruff
Do you ever just want to see a good comedy, one where the laughs come easy and the characters are like people you know or wish you did? I suggest you get on the phone and buy a pair of tickets to It Had To Be You currently being staged by American Century Theatre. Written by the well known husband and wife team of Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in 1981 and brought back to life in the Gunston II Theatre, this play is flat out funny. Theda Blau (Karen Jadlos Shotts) is an out of work actress, god awful playwright, hopeless romantic and complete nut who has just attended the Christmas Eve funeral of her agent. While auditioning for a commercial for a cocktail mix she happens to meet ad executive Vito Pignoli (Mark Lee Adams). The bizarre, eccentric actress somehow captivates Vito, so they share a cab and he helps her carry her shopping bags up the stairs to her mess of a studio. Make a mental note now — this was a big mistake.
Theda excuses herself to change and returns wearing a mink coat with nothing underneath. Seduction is inevitable and they end up having a holiday roll in the sheets. Totally caught off guard Vito is then surprised to hear she is ready to be not only his new girlfriend, but also his writing partner. Vito, who is quite the ladies man quickly determines Theda may have escaped from a padded room and tries to call a limo to keep another date he has made. It is then that one barrier after another is thrown in his path by this platinum blonde lunitic holding him hostage on this snowy holiday evening in NY. All this wacky weirdness of course ends with a good old-fashioned romance. Ms. Shotts’ performance is totally over the top and I found myself chuckling with every delivered line. She is able to play off of Mr. Adams’ hysteria with skilled comedic timing that amazes with every punch line. These two performers really have an on stage chemistry that is a pleasure to behold. Thomas B Kennedy’s set design was fantastic; just as one would picture a small NY studio and the 80s feel was perfect. The sound design by Kevin Harney and costumes by Rip Claausen kept with the authentic 80s aura and I wished I had a few Bee Gees tunes on the iPod for the ride home. Ellen Dempsey directs this fabulously funny love story and I have the feeling that the performers and director shared a special chemistry that is evident throughout the show. Romantic comedies like It Had To Be You will put a smile on your face that will last not until Christmas Eve but certainly until Thanksgiving.
It Had to Be You opens September 8 and runs through October 8. Performances are at Theater II, Gunston Arts, Center, 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington, Virginia 22206. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM and 2:30 matinees on September 10, 18, 25, and October 1 and 8. Tickets including senior and student discounts are $20-$29.50. Call 703-553-8782 or visit http://www.americancentury.org