Theater Review: Pa. Playhouse 'I.R.S' pays off in laughter
John and Leslie need to convince the IRS they are a married couple. Seems simple enough, but what the IRS doesn't know is that both parties are male.
That may not sound unusual in this day and age, but "Love Sex & The I.R.S" is set in New York during the late 1970s, well before the legalization and acceptance of same-sex marriage.
"Love Sex & The I.R.S," written by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore and directed by Charles Weigold, III, weekends through April 12 at Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem, brings to the stage many elements of classic madcap comedy.
In the storyline, Kate (Arlene Fox) is to be married in two weeks to struggling musician John (Brian Welsko), who happens to be Leslie's (Sebastian Paff) longtime roommate.
The setting is John and Leslie's dingy walk-up apartment. It is a typical bachelor pad, complete with duct tape-mended sofa and crushed beer cans strewn along the floor.
The problems for John, Leslie and Kate become compounded by an unexpected visit from seemingly straight-laced Floyd Spinner (Jerry Brucker), an Internal Revenue Service agent.
John has been claiming Leslie as his spouse for years in order to cheat the government out of a few tax dollars. In order to convince Spinner that the scenario is true and avoid possible penalties, John convinces Leslie to don a wig and dress in Kate's ill-fitting clothing to pose as his wife during Spinner's investigation.
Add in nosy building super Jansen (Steven Schmid), a surprise visit from John's overwrought mother Vivian (Jen Santos), some bad drag, lots of scotch, a ton of slapstick comedy and more door opening and closing than a game of "Mystery Date" and you have the basis for two hours of amusement.
Welsko plays it straight (as straight as can be given the situation) as the overboard antics and plot twists seems destined to unravel his charade.
The sham is almost a success until the departing Spinner returns for a forgotten briefcase and ends up an invited dinner guest.
Brucker as Spinner is a highlight of the show as audiences watch him gradually loosen up as he gets liquored up. Santos matches him as an equally soused and over-the-top counterpart.
Connie (Samantha Strickler), Leslie's largely unseen girlfriend, and subway officiant Grunion (Dara Connelly) appear in the final act, adding an added dose of comic relief.
Weigold gets the most out of his cast and they truly look like they are enjoying themselves on stage.
Each of the players gives high-energy performances and one can imagine they are quite tired after the curtain falls on the final act.
The humor and some subject matter in the script written in 1979 is cliché and dated, but like most farces and physical comedies, "Love Sex & The I.R.S." is a play that requires audiences to roll with the pratfalls and laugh out loud at the absurdity.
The key is in the presentation and judging by audience response, Weigold and cast have succeeded.