They're Playing Our Song -- Theater Review

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"They're Playing Our Song" centers on a frank, sexy and neurotic relationship, circa late '80s, that is patterned loosely on its young creators Marvin Hamlisch (aka Vernon Gersch) and Carole Bayer Sager (aka Sonia Walsk). We're talking a little bit spunky, a little bit brassy, a lot of poetry and oceans of heart. Oh, and music played by a backstage band that would have had boomers dancing in the aisles if the Freud Playhouse had any.

Stephanie J. Block captures Sonia's newly liberated woman unleashed at full force, dressed in a dazzling succession of Kate Bergh's posthippie fantasies. Block sings, dances and engages in sex with equal good nature and aplomb. Jason Alexander's power lies in his work as a consummate screwball comedy man; it even turns out he can dance and sing.

Although writer Neil Simon's obsession with Block's former lover Leon gets tired fast, nothing stops the madly careening love affair between Vernon and Sonia, despite the fact that they are as mismatched in physique and style as they are in neurotic dynamics and tone, leading to a nonstop barrage of good-natured humor that the audience responds to with split-second, laugh-track-quality precision. Both stars are willing to share the play, to feed the straight lines as well as deliver the punches. They also ignite sexually in quiet, intimate ways that everyone will recognize.

The production takes no prisoners in the first act but drags during the second, when the comings and goings of the bumbling lovers seem more like padding than compelling. Whatever the point of the couple's six dancing and singing alter egos is lost on the small stage, and they amount only to decoration.

Venue: Freud Playhouse, UCLA, Westwood (Through Oct. 10)
Cast: Jason Alexander, Stephanie J. Block, Daniel Guzman, Jamey Hood, Christa Jackson, Dennis Kyle, Sylvia MacCalla, and Christopher Zenner
Book: Neil Simon
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics: Carole Bayer Sager
Director: Lonny Price
Choreographer: Josh Rhodes
Music director: Bruce Kiesling
Scenic designer: John Iacovelli
Costume designer: Kate Bergh
Lighting designer: Jared A. Sayeg
Sound desinger: Philip G. Allen
Casting director: Amy Lieberman
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