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THEATER REVIEW : 'Come Blow Your Horn' Is Straight-Ahead Funny : The early '60s ethnic stereotyping and sexual pranksterism are outmoded, but some elements foreshadow later Simon works.

January 20, 1994|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Neil Simon's first full-length stage comedy, "Come Blow Your Horn," is also one of his straight-ahead funniest--there's no soggy pathos slowing things down here. It's also instructive, blueprinting themes that he'd follow from then on and even previewing a couple of popular characters from his most popular show. The current production of Dinner Theatre at Ottavio's in Camarillo is giving audiences a couple of hours of solid laughter--and a meal--for their $25.

Alan Baker, 32, is a swinging bachelor-about-town (New York City, of course) in the swinging, pre-Beatles '60s. As the play opens, he's trying to juggle dates and business as his younger brother, Buddy, knocks at the door. Fed up with the pressures of living at home, Buddy wants to move in with Alan.

Buddy, unlike smooth and handsome Alan, is nebbishy, shy, bespectacled and aspires to be a writer--he's not the last of Simon's surrogate characters in his own plays. But Alan's always been Buddy's mentor and now takes his brother in, offering him the phone number of a spare girlfriend.

Buddy is nervous about this new step into life, but excited at the prospect. All is going well until the men's parents show up, one at a time. High jinks--and much frustration--ensue.

At the very least, "Come Blow Your Horn" demonstrates why you should never give your parents your home address.

In this brightly paced production, director Paul Marquie doesn't shrink from exaggerating ethnic stereotypes, which may cause a bit of discomfort in some quarters.

That noted, Gary Romm and Arlene Weisenberg are very funny as Buddy and his mother, with Wayne Collier only a bit more subtle as the Baker boys' father. On the other hand, George Reese is so WASPish as Alan Baker that you might wonder if he was adopted. Alan is also the only member of the family without some hint of a New York accent. (The 1962 movie version was very strangely cast, with Frank Sinatra as the 30ish Alan and Tony Bill as Buddy).

Judy Weaver and Natalie Holcomb are featured as two of the women in Alan's life: Weaver as the sweet, ditzy and accommodating Peggy Evans (who can't tell the difference between Vermont and New Hampshire), and Holcomb as the more sensible one whom Alan respects--but not enough to marry. Laura Tennenhouse appears briefly in a surprise role.

By '90s standards, Alan is something of a sleaze, procuring prostitutes for a potential business client and promising Peggy an audition with a movie producer as an excuse to whisk her away to a weekend tryst at a skiing lodge. It was, indeed, another era.

Simon fans should listen carefully for mentions (though not appearances) of Peggy's acting teacher, one Felix Unger, and of a character whose name at one point is more than a little reminiscent of "Oscar Madison." Both names, of course, would appear as different characters in Simon's "The Odd Couple."

Details

* WHAT: "Come Blow Your Horn."

* WHEN: Thursday and Friday nights through Feb. 18; additional Valentine's Day performance Feb. 13.

* WHERE: Ottavio's Banquet Facility, 340 Mobil Ave., Camarillo.

* COST: $25 per person, includes show, buffet dinner, nonalcoholic beverage, tax and gratuity. Open bar and wine available. Season tickets, group rates and fund-raising programs available.

* FYI: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., dinner served at 7; show begins after 8. For reservations or information, call 484-9909.

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