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On Theater: Rudner's new turn will tickle audiences

May 03, 2012|By Tom Titus

Audiences most certainly will be "Tickled Pink" when they catch the new comedy by that title now in its world premiere run at the Laguna Playhouse.

It's the brainchild of popular comedienne — and Monarch Bay resident — Rita Rudner and her husband, Martin Bergman, who also directs. It's based on Rudner's early showbiz career and some (though certainly not all) of it may be true.

Rudner's tale is told through the superbly talented Emma Fassler who, when she finally breaks through as a standup comic, playgoers could close their eyes and imagine Rudner speaking this ironic, self-deprecating dialogue. It's sort of like watching Owen Wilson do a pitch-perfect Woody Allen in the movie "Midnight in Paris."

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"Tickled Pink" is an ensemble effort and, yes, Rudner herself appears, though merely as a cog in her show's 13-performer wheel. But when she's on — costumed and bewigged beyond recognition — audiences will spot her brilliant comedic talent.

It's Fassler, however, around whom the show revolves, and Rudner could not have chosen a better surrogate to illustrate her mostly comic but occasionally deadly serious pseudo-biography.

As Mindy Solomon from Miami, who ventures to New York to seek a dancing career, but who switches to standup — as Rudner did — Fassler hits all the right notes in an exemplary performance.

Mindy aligns with a lovely blonde roommate, Ursula, beautifully interpreted by Annie Abrams, who becomes her best friend and, accidentally, her arch-rival, scoring the leading role in a TV sitcom originally meant for Fassler's character. Their tenuous relationship thereafter is skillfully enacted.

Michael Kirby exhibits understated charm as Mitch, the show's co-creator whose romance with Mindy suffers as well. Nick Massouh takes on the deliciously slimy character of Tommy, Ursula's husband who puts the moves on Mindy.

Moving the story onto more serious turf is Betsy Reisz as Penelope, Mindy's friend and fellow writer who suffers an unkind twist of fate. Floyd van Buskirk has a neat little cameo as Mindy's uncultured father, left to his own devices in a cluttered apartment he cleans once a year.

Other ensemble members — Greg Bryan, Eileen Galindo, Brett Glazer, Eric Curtis Johnson, Brian Lohmann, Robert Yacko — spin in and out of the episodic show in various guises, wheeling scenic elements on and off stage in the process.

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