Sunday, February 10, 2013

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!, PlayhouseSquare

 When you bill a show as “A new comedy about love and marriage,” it all comes down to the definition of what “new” is.

If “new” means that these words have never been performed in this exact order before, as written by Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, then the statement is accurate beyond all doubt.

But if “new” means a fresh and invigorating take on the vicissitudes of dating and married life, then You Say Tomato… is about as old as the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” from which the title is borrowed. That ditty was penned in 1937 by the brothers Gershwin, who knew a thing or two about real wit.

Gurwitch and Kahn, married in real life, are comedians who appear primarily on TV—and that’s fine. But in this script, even with all the au courant japes about Facebook, texting and emailing, the core of this show feels about as fresh as an episode of The Bickersons  and way less surprising than the first two years of Modern Family.

Flicking back and forth in time from their tenth anniversary dinner, the two characters tell the meet-cute-and-get-married story of the authors, here played by Kevin Bartini and Gabrielle Mirabella.

All the predictable milestones are hit: the early break-up, the reconciliation, the wedding, the pregnancy, the kid, and so forth. And there are some genuine laughs, especially since it starts out with Annabelle being the one who’s scared of commitment and Jeff as the romantic one.

But soon, Jeff’s romantic mindset morphs into simple-minded sitcom horniness and Annabelle’s edgy cynicism softens and then eventually disappears under the onslaught of their cute baby.

The performers do what they can with this material, which triggers many more slight smiles than huge guffaws—the baby keeps them up at night! After all, we’ve seen a lot of this stuff, from Lucy and Desi all the way up to Claire and Phil.

So if you’re in the mood for some gentle teasing of the bonds of love and matrimony, this is your ticket. But don’t expect too much of the in-your-face candor or outrageous energy promised in the title.

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!
Through February 17 at PlayhouseSquare, 14th Street Theatre, 1501 E. 14th St., 216-241-6000

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