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A CurtainUp Review
Viagara Falls

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes
—Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's song, "High Hopes"
Lou Cutell & Bernie Kopell
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The ad states: "WARNING-Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to engage in hilarious activity. After taking in Viagara Falls, if you maintain hard laughter lasting more than four hours, contact your doctor immediately." True or False?

Four hours of laughter? Don't speed dial your doctor for this harmless 90-minute comedy.

Viagara Falls, at the Little Shubert Theatre, may have been funny 50 years ago on a TV variety show, but today, the hard laughs are more like quiet chuckles. Still, a hearty salute is due for the trio of comic vets who toss out their lines with traditional pizzazz. With snatches of Sinatra on the stereo, Bernie Kopell, Lou Cutell and Teresa Ganzel put this out-dated concept into first drive and occasionally hit cruising speed.

In their late 70's, Charlie Milhouse (Lou Cutell) and Moe Crubbs (Bernie Kopell) have been best pals since Moe saved Charlie's life in Korea. They lived next door to each other in Long Island and now both are widowers living in the same apartment building in Sunnyside, Queens. They are believable as old friends who share memories and care about each other. The play takes place on Charlie's birthday. Moe comes by with a birthday cake and a gift box of Wet Handy Wipes. Charlie, however, wants more. He has bought a supply of those little blue erectile enhancement pills in a neighborhood black market and now he yearns for a different kind of rhythm to celebrate his 77th birthday.

"Moe," he says. "Nobody gets out of living alive, so before we go, we just gotta go out and start expanding our horizons." To which Moe responds "Charley, at my age the only thing I'll expand by going out are my hemorrhoids" Kopell and Cutell deliver these corny, dated lines with good natured charm.

Cutell, who played Dr. Cooperman on Seinfeld, resembles a genial Don Rickles and portrays Charlie with energy, determined to sow his wild oats and get Moe to join him. Kopel is best known for television roles such as Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat. Acclimated to the natural progression of life, his woebegone Moe resembles a crestfallen scarecrow. "I've been through one marriage, four wars, five colonoscopies, three sigmoidoscopies, and my prostate numbers above normal." Yet, with a mixture of reluctance and intrigue, Moe watches his friend call up, Pussy Cats For Older Men dot com and together they wait for the two hookers to arrive.

Teresa Ganzel, a frequent guest on The Johnny Carson Show, is a delight, bringing sincerity and likeability to her portrayal of Jacqueline Tempest, the hooker who arrives to take care of both gents. The second hooker, she says, was just booked by an undercover cop. Blonde, wide-eyed, leggy and abundantly gifted, Ganzel has been around the block but she shimmies and shakes with confidence and delivers her lines with natural comedic timing and sensitivity.

The plot gets burdened with Charlie's determination battling Moe's recalcitrance, confusion about the Viagra in an aspirin bottle, Jacqueline's professional encouragement, and overused innuendoes. Everything leads up to the grand event, with a letter mix-up adding a final twist and a bittersweet ending.

For the two aging men, Bob Mackie provides suspenders for Moe and a colorful shirt for Charlie and two wildly sequined "Aramani" jackets from the 99-cents store. Jacqueline wears a tempting mini and low cut top. Sydney Litwack's worn-out living room set fills the stage, with Sinatra photos on the wall and snatches of recordings playing throughout the show. Joshua Scherr's scheduled blackouts amusingly lead to show one or both men asleep on the sofa.

When the lights go out, the three performers return in new outfits, Moe sporting a top hat, Jacqueline with a wedding veil, Charley wearing a halo and Sinatra singing, "That's Life.".

Viagara Falls
Book by Lou Cutell and Joao Machado
Directed by Don Crichton

Cast: Bernie Kopell, Lou Cutell, Teresa Ganzel
Scenic Design: Sydney Litwack
Costume Design: Bob Mackie
Lighting Design: Joshua Scherr
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Running Time: 90 minutes. No intermission
Little Shubert Theater: 422 West 42nd Street.
Tickets: $69. 212-239-6200
Performances: Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat. at 8PM. Tues. at 7PM. Wed.and Sat. matinees at 2PM. Sun. matinee at 3pm.
From 7/5/10. Opening 7/21/10. Open Run turned into a quick burial-- closed 8/29/10.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 7/20/10
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