American Century Theater’s charming new production of Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn follows the comically mismatched Baker brothers as they deal with mistaken identity, family drama, and romantic misadventures. As the play unfolds, American Century’s snappy, heartwarming production quickly proves it can stand toe to toe with Simon’s massively popular The Odd Couple on both comedic and dramatic fronts.
Come Blow Your Horn thrives on the shifting relationship between swinging bachelor Alan Baker and his neurotic younger brother Buddy, who has just moved into Alan’s NYC apartment. In three brisk acts, the two clash over living styles, feed off each other’s energy, and slowly switch places, much to their eventual concern and confusion.
Just as in The Odd Couple, a strong rapport between leads is essential to the rapid-fire dialogue and story arc. Director Rip Claassen and his team nailed this vital chemistry with the casting of Elliott Kashner and Alex Alferov as the older and younger Baker boys.
In the early going, Kashner uses a big smile and easygoing wit to balance multiple women, family obligations, and occasional days at his family’s artificial fruit factory. His smooth-talking ways initially get him out of a number of jams until his juggling act finally catches up to him. After a dramatic turn of events, Kashner shows his versatility by playing uptight straight man to his newly-unleashed younger brother. Despite a few line flubs, he never loses his cool as he steers the show through a flurry of implausible yet entertaining action.
Gifted physical comedian Alex Alferov imbues the role of rule-following Buddy Baker with neurotic energy that would do Woody Allen proud. Buddy is initially flabbergasted by his brother’s swinging city life, having spent almost all of his 21 years under his parents’ watchful eyes. Alferov’s twitchy, childish tantrums reveal a college man with the emotional maturity of a fifth grader, a fitting counterpoint to Alan’s calm under fire However, like Kashner, Alferov eventually gets to switch sides and play inside Alan’s persona, creating a hilariously gawky likeness of a New York City ladies man.
Mick Tinder and Alison Turkel bring Alan and Buddy’s overbearing parents to life in scene stealing fashion. As Mr. Baker [Senior], local vet Tinder unleashes a playful mix of dry wit and fiery temper on his two wayward sons. He sweeps about scenic designer Trena Weiss-Null’s cozy apartment set, delivering “father knows best” moments with an unpredictable current of withering stares and volcanic outbursts. Meanwhile, Turkel shines as the harried Baker matriarch. Her shrieking anxiety attack, unleashed by the merciless ringing of a telephone, is the funniest scene out of a very funny show.
Come Blow Your Horn
Closes October 12, 2013
American Century Theater
at Gunston Arts Center
2700 S. Lang Street
2 hours with 2 intermissions
Tickets: $35 – $40
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Tucked away in the unassuming Gunston Community Center, Come Blow Your Horn is a sharply acted night of quirky humor and rapidly escalating mishaps that flies by despite two intermissions, a rarity for any play. American Century’s breezy ode to Neil Simon’s classic sitcom style is well worth a trip before the run ends on October 12th.
Come Blow Your Horn by Neil Simon . Directed by Rip Claassen . Featuring Elliot Kashner, Mick Tinder, Alex Alferov, Lizzie Albert, Heather Benjamin and Allison Turkel. Set deign: Trena Weiss-Null . Sound design: Ed Moser . Lighting design: Marianne Meadows . Costume design: Patricia Tinder . Props: Kevin Laughon . Stage manager: Caharles Lasky . Produced by American Century Theater . Reviewed by Ben Demers.