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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

At Play in the Adult World

Rick Reynolds' lunacy merges with intimacy in his hilarious, confessional 'All Grown Up. . . .'

March 27, 1997|PHILIP BRANDES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Who would you rather be--the happy kid in your high school yearbook photo or the mature, responsible adult you are today? That question provides the launch pad for another devastatingly funny, incisive and courageously soul-baring monologue from Rick Reynolds, who in his 40s finds himself "All Grown Up . . . and no place to go."

Marrying the razor-sharp timing and delivery of stand-up comedy with the revelatory intimacy of the church confessional, Reynolds reduces audiences at the Tiffany Theater to helpless convulsions of laughter by exposing his foibles--and making sure we recognize them in ourselves.

Unlike the faux autobiography delivered from behind a carefully crafted stage persona of the likes of Spalding Gray (and lately Howard Stern), Reynolds makes it painfully clear he's not acting. Using a self-directed staging style he calls "pacing and flailing my arms," he sets out to illuminate not the individual quirks that make him stand out as an endearing eccentric, but the less flattering, more mundane qualities that make his plight typical of a contemporary husband and father. Along the way, he reveals his limitless capacity to be trite, aggressive, petty, vain and jealous--his story is, in short, "a list of the ways I suck."

That same merciless candor made Reynolds' first monologue, "Only the Truth Is Funny," a memorable exploration of his troubled childhood. The new piece picks up where "Truth" left off: After sailing into a domesticated sunset with the birth of his son, Reynolds soon hit "a brick wall called reality."

"I don't believe in God or destiny or the Publisher's Clearinghouse," he says. "But I do believe in love." Yet parenthood, he admits, proved very different from all the '50s TV sitcoms that shaped his ideal of normal family life. Instead, he found himself coming home each day to a "Fellini day-care center."

Contrasting the two very different emotional attachments to children versus spouses that we glibly lump under the single label of "love," Reynolds turns to his primary focus--the tenuous relations between men and women. Through the prism of his own marital crisis--ironically triggered by the success of his other show, which distanced him from his wife, Lisa--Reynolds explores the difficulties in maintaining a relationship with "that strange roommate you call 'honey.' "

The discovery that he wasn't the easiest person to live with came as a shock. After 15 years of what he considered a successful marriage, he brags, "I'd finally reached the point where if I want something sexual I'm not embarrassed to beg for it." What he had to realize is that after living long enough with the same person, "you start to treat them like a 7-Eleven."

A modern tragedy, Reynolds maintains, is our willingness to believe that romanticism is an illusion. Defying this wisdom, Reynolds and the long-suffering Lisa made a valiant effort to rekindle their romance. In his fast-paced chronicle, their odyssey becomes a hilarious, freewheeling tour through Thanksgiving dinners, prison performances, nude massages and couples counseling. Now in the process of redistributing territory in their marriage ("Basically, I'm giving a lot of it back"), Reynolds holds out the optimistic assertion that love can indeed be recaptured.

Maybe so, but given the depths of his neuroses, there's little danger Reynolds will run out of monologue material any time soon--fortunately for us.

BE THERE

"All Grown Up . . . and no place to go," Tiffany Theater, 8532 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends April 27. $30. (310) 289-2999. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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