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THEATER BEAT

'Lucky Stiff' Lacks True Comedic Lift

August 16, 1996|JANA J. MONJI

"Something funny's going on," the company warns in the opening song. But for all its kooky characters and dreamy locale, the Odyssey Theatre's "Lucky Stiff" isn't funny enough.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty attempted to create a family musical by combining the Englishman-out-of-his-element genre with an old-fashioned madcap screwball comedy. Yet "Lucky Stiff" never rises to giddy heights of silliness, and its predictable script is neither witty nor winningly charming.

Harry Witherspoon (William Seymour), an English shoe salesman, is promised a $6-million inheritance if he takes the taxidermist-prepared corpse of his Uncle Tony to Monte Carlo. Otherwise, the money will go to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn.

The characters include a myopic mistress (Sandy Mulvihill), a mild-mannered optometrist Vinnie (Ron Marasco) and a representative from the dog home (Jani Newman). There are a lost corpse, a drunk maid, shots fired in the dark, some gambling and love, but under director Gary Gardner the production never effectively plays up the physical comedy potential.

The tunes are less than hummable, the characters forgettable. The pink and blue background with lame representations of dogs, cards and gambling chips only emphasizes the amateurishness.

The cast is energetic but unexceptional. Seymour relies on nervous tics. Newman is earnest and bland. Together, they generate no sparks.

* "Lucky Stiff," Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m., except Aug. 25 and Sept. 15, 3 p.m. only. Ends Sept. 22. $22-$27. (310) 477-2055. Running time: 2 hours.

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