In today’s Wall Street Journal drama column I report on a Florida production of Lewis Black’s One Slight Hitch. Here’s an excerpt.
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It isn’t unusual for actors to try their hand at playwriting, and some of them, like Zoe Kazan, do it very well. But except for Woody Allen, I can’t recall any working comedians who’ve been particularly successful at writing for the legitimate stage. (Unlike Mr. Allen, Steve Martin didn’t start writing plays until after he stopped doing stand-up.) This makes sense, since stand-up comedians are short hitters who work with a company of one. Plays call for a larger canvas, as well as a grasp of dramatic structure that is alien to the smash-and-grab methods of even the most inspired comics.
Enter Lewis Black, who is best known for his appearances on “The Daily Show.” Mr. Black, who started out as a playwright but never had much luck at it, has taken another shot at bucking the odds with a two-act play called “One Slight Hitch” that’s been making the regional rounds and is now being performed by Florida Repertory Theatre, a top-notch company whose custom is to offer its audiences something light in January. On the surface, “One Slight Hitch,” a comedy about a wedding that goes haywire, fills the bill with ease—but Mr. Black’s play is more serious than it seems.
The first surprise about “One Slight Hitch” is that it’s not at all the kind of play you’d expect from a stand-up comedian. Instead of being a slurry of one-liners held together by an exiguous plot, it’s a solidly built piece of theatrical carpentry about a nuclear family in comic crisis. From “The Philadelphia Story” (to which “One Slight Hitch” bears a definite resemblance) in the ‘30s to “Never Too Late” in the ‘60s, such plays used to be Broadway’s commercial stock in trade, but they’ve pretty much died off in recent years. Hence it’s a nostalgic treat to watch Mr. Black ring the changes on the once-familiar, still-hummable theme of what happens to a seemingly happy, soon-to-be-wed couple (Rachel Moulton and Sid Solomon) when the ne’er-do-well ex-boyfriend of the bride-to-be (Nate Washburn) shows up without warning at the front door of her horrified parents (Martin LaPlatney and Carrie Lund) on the morning of her great big wedding.
What gives “One Slight Hitch” its distinctive flavor is that Delia, the mother, is a member of the Greatest Generation who was forced to marry in haste and fear during World War II and has longed ever since to make up for it by putting together a super-wedding for one of her three daughters. Mr. Black’s brand of comedy has a strong political flavor, so it figures that Delia and her family should be staunchly Republican suburbanites. The twist is that Delia, as a shrink might put it, has insight into her condition, and expresses it with great poignancy…
That’s a tricky mix to manage, and “One Slight Hitch” doesn’t always jell, in part because the first act, which feels like the set-up for a four-doors-and-a-guy-in-drag farce, is too loosely written (Mr. Black could have trimmed 10 minutes out of it). But the laughs flow freely after intermission, and Ms. Lund, one of the mainstays of Florida Rep’s semi-permanent ensemble, is very much up to the challenging task of finding the emotional heart of Delia’s climactic monologue….
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Read the whole thing here.