What Every Playwright and Actor Dream of Reading

Yes, we’ve opened a hit comedy! What could be sweeter to say in the springtime than “we’ve opened a hit comedy?” It’s been a while since Bob Mondello’s written a review of a Theater J production. Such is the erratic state of theater coverage in the City Paper these days. But reading this you’ll see why Bob remains the most elegant and passionate theater writer in our area, as he’s been for the past 20 years.

And, perhaps because this is much his kind of play, he’s agreed to be part of a talk back with us this Sunday at 5 pm on “Woody Allen and the Zeitgeist Then and Now” together with film professor Erik Dussere, Assistant Professor of film at American University.

Here’s Bob’s gorgeous review… (Read it in full in the Washington City Paper)

Allusions of Grandeur

Woody Two-Shoes: The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall is a sophisticated but ingenuous homage.
By Bob Mondello, Washington City Paper  Posted: April 22, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall
By Sam Forman; Directed by Shirley Serotsky
At Theater J to May 24

Don’t let the glasses fool you. In The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall, Josh Lefkowitz may be playing leading man Henry Poole as a Woody Allen doppelgänger, but there’s more than a bit of This American Life host Ira Glass to him too. The helplessly ingratiating smile, the sly, sideways storytelling. The actor doesn’t just let fly with Henry’s quips, he wraps his body around them, sidling up to punch lines, cocking his head one way and curling his leg the other to send zingers zinging so unpredictably that an audience never quite knows where it’s about to be tickled.

Henry is the linchpin in a nifty comic throwback—a lightweight romcom of the sort that used to be the lifeblood of Broadway in the days before megamusicals took over and $110 orchestra seats became the norm. Washington used to play host to a few of them during tryout season every year—Cactus Flower with Lauren Bacall, Three Bags Full with Paul Ford.

Forty years ago, one of these lightweight confections tried out at the National Theater. It had a movie-referencing title and a plot about a nebbishy, fourth-wall-breaking hero who seeks romantic inspiration in Humphrey Bogart flicks. At the time, nobody’d really heard of Woody Allen; Play It Again Sam changed that.

Now, just blocks away at Theater J, playwright Sam Forman’s found a way to, um, play it again, in an eminently Broadway-worthy comedy with a movie-referencing title and a plot about a nebbishy, fourth-wall-breaking hero who seeks romantic inspiration in Woody Allen flicks. Nobody’s really heard of Sam Forman at this point, but I suspect that’ll change too. Lightning has, to a far greater extent than anyone has any right to expect, struck twice. (to keep reading the rest of the review, go to www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=37120)