THEATER REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Neil Simon, Jason Haws, Harlequin Productions. That alone should be enough to convince theater lovers to buy tickets to I Ought to be in Pictures. A typical Simon comedy/drama, this lovely little show elicits laughter, and it is human drama as true as true can be — despite the required suspension of disbelief about a 19-year-old girl hitchhiking from coast to coast to move in with her estranged father and become a movie star.

Herb (Haws) is a washed-up Hollywood script writer with the worst case of writer’s block ever. When he says he wrote 40-something pages, what he really means is he wrote the same page 40-something times and then gave up for the day. He’s about as ineffective at love as he is at script-writing, with a handful of ex-wives and many ex-girlfriends. And he is unwilling or psychologically unable to commit to his current girlfriend, Steffy (Ann Flannigan), who is the most sensible and steadfast potential partner or spouse he’s ever likely to find. Steffy stays overnight but doesn’t live with Herb.

Into their lives comes Libby (Elex Hill), the daughter Herb abandoned 16 years ago. Libby is gutsy and headstrong, and as portrayed by Hill, thoroughly delightful — a daughter anyone should be proud to claim as their own. She hitch-hiked from the East Coast not even knowing how to find her father other than to knock on the door of every Herb Tucker in the Los Angeles phone book. She is one determined young lady.

Libby wants to become a movie star and expects her dad to use his connections in the industry to get her a part. Not a very likely scenario. Her only acting experience has been as an extra in a high school play who never got to go on stage, and when Herb asks her about her resume, she doesn’t know what that is.

The action takes place in Herb’s home over a relatively brief period of time. It is the kind of set Harlequin is noted for: a comfortable interior scene with stairs, multiple doors and windows, spot-on details and lighting (scenic design by Jeannie Beirne and lighting by Olivia Burlingame).

The acting is superlative. Haws and Flannigan are seasoned professionals well known to Harlequin audiences. Their movement and gestures and voices are so natural that it seems they are not acting at all, but simply are Herb and Steffy. Halfway through the first act, you feel like you’ve known them for years.

While comparatively young, Hill is not a newcomer to the stage. She was recently seen in The Art of Racing in the Rain at Harlequin and has done ensemble work in other Harlequin shows, and has performed at Edmond’s Driftwood Players and other Seattle-area theaters. She is fresh and loveable and is convincing as the brash and charming Libby.

I Ought to be in Pictures is filled with laughter. The action flows quickly and smoothly from scene to scene, and ultimately and most of all, it touches the heart. You can’t help but care about Herb and Steffy and Libby despite their very human flaws.

This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.

WHAT

I Ought to be in Pictures

WHEN

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 9

WHERE

State Theater, 202 4th Ave. E., Olympia

HOW MUCH

$35 general.

$32 senior/military, $20 rush tickets ½ hour before showtime, $12 student/youth

LEARN MORE

360.786.0151

harlequinproductions.org