Theater review: ‘The Ohio 4th’ at the Hudson Theatre

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The mugging starts early on in Annie McVey’s excessively broad staging of Daniel Shoenman’s world-premiere comedy “The Ohio 4th” at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre. Unfortunately, a faulty comedic setup strains logic and laughs.

The action is set in Marion, Ohio, home to the world’s largest popcorn museum but not a whole lot else. Acerbic producer Emily Harris (Cori Clark Nelson) and happy-go-lucky director Josh Sherman (John Lavelle) are the movers and shakers behind a new play about Marion’s most illustrious former resident, Warren G. Harding.

The bulk of the humor is predicated on the lame premise that some half-dozen individuals would criminally collude to cover up the death of a person who has died of completely natural causes.

There are a few hearty guffaws and plenty of energy, but overall, this is a middling play about a bad play -- a shame, because several of these performers really grow on you. From a klunky beginning, Lavelle eventually snags some real laughs, as does Weston I. Nathanson as a star-struck small-town politico caught up in the coverup. In dual roles, perfectly dry and deadpan Kim Swennen delivers the standout turn of the evening.


Gary Guidinger’s set design is certainly versatile, but an excess of short scenes leading nowhere requires too many laborious scene changes.

From Feydeau to Cooney, with an obvious nod to Frayn, farce requires a strong framework to support the silliness. Shoenman and McVey aim to please but haven’t quite grasped the lesson that slapstick requires a light tap instead of a bludgeoning.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“The Ohio 4th,” Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 21. $30. (323) 960-7714. Running time: 2 hours.