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A CurtainUp Review

Maybe Baby, It's You

New Yorkers seem to have an insatiable appetite for laughing at their relationship difficulties. I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change has become something of an institution with those looking for a live Seinfeld/Friends experiences. Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight recently enjoyed a respectable run on the upper West Side, a neighborhood teeming with those still single or single again. Now Maybe Baby, It's You, flushed from its earlier success at the Currican, has taken up open-ended residence at the SoHo Playhouse.

Written and performed by Shari Simpson and Charlie Shanian, this latest relationship comedy encompasses almost a dozen getting together and coming apart vignettes. Under Jeremy Dobrish's direction the show is modestly but effectively staged, with recorded interviews of people in Central Park talking about the next-in-line topic nicely serving as a unifying thread. Shari Simpson is a terrifically versatile performer who is fun to watch even in the less successful episodes and Charlie Shanian nicely complements her whacky wit.

Things start out with a big bang as our relationship tour guides journey from impossibly high to increasingly lowered expectations. A blind date dinner from hell at which Simpson turns up as a manic Medea also sends the laugh meter soaring. The best written and most sophisticated piece is a film noir spoof on some of the icons of 1940's b-movie romances with Shanian as a trench coated Phillip Marlowe type and Simpson a sultry siren with her hair in a snood exchanging verbal volleys -- his "our relationship became bumpier than a phrenologist's skull" brings a demand for "no more metaphors" which he counters with "stop addressing the audience -- no more breaking the fourth wall!"

Bernard Grenier's costumes, like the perennial picture that says more than a thousand words, add much comic zip to the proceedings. The scene in which the performers metamorphose into the figures on top of the much in evidence wedding cake provides a memorable sight gag.

Unfortunately, the genuinely funny episodes are outnumbered by those already mentioned less successful ones. Ms. Simpson and Mr. Shanian are more consistent in their acting than their writing and at least half of this show fails to rise above the television sitcoms it brings to mind.

The director doesn't help matters by letting most of the skits go on at least three minutes too long. Perhaps that's when the usher told me the show's running time was an hour and forty minutes and a man working for the show corrected her with an hour and twenty minute estimate, he anticipated cuts. However, unless someone has wielded the blue pencil since the press preview I attended, expect to stay tuned for the full hour and forty minutes -- and that's without a chance to fast forward as you could if Maybe Baby, It's You in its more natural habitat, the small screen in your living room.

Editor's Note: The open run at SoHo Rep wasn't as open-ended as hoped for -- but as of November 9th, the show was back on the boards. Same writer-creators, different director (Peter Webb) and design team (Emily Straka, costumes, Jim Hultquist, lighting). The return engagement will be at the Theater at St. Luke's (308 W. 45th St. -- 239-6200) where the two-hander will rotate around the schedules of Late Nite Catechism and Tony n'Tina's Wedding-- with performances at $40 Wenesday matinees, Thursday and Friday evenings at 8 and Saturday evenings at 10.

Created and performed by Shari Simpson and Charlie Shanian.
Directed by Jeremy Dobrish.
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Costume Design: Bernard Grenier
Sound Design: Chris Todd
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes without intermission
SoHo Playhouse,15 Vandam St.. (6th/7th Avs) 239-6200
Performances from 10/26/99; opening 11/09/99
Reviewed by based on 11/04/99 performance
Closed 1/02/2000

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