In "Hot Buttered Amour," a trio of one-acts at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, playwright Jacob Edelman turns eccentricity into a virtue.
These light romantic comedies offer the kind of quirky, amusingly eccentric parts that actors--and many viewers--love. While the plays themselves are far from perfect, the Theatre Group (composed of veteran actors studying under teacher Milton Katselas) has put together an entertaining, if overly long, bill.
The best piece by far is "Women Do Get Weary," in which Alan (Robert Pine), a middle-aged businessman, arrives home to find his wife, Louise (Gina Hecht), in bed with Patrick (Lenny Citrano). "Meet our new marriage counselor," Louise tells Alan.
What follows is a very funny on-the-spot therapy session, as Patrick--a well-meaning but hopelessly incompetent neophyte who learned his trade from a Nazi doctor in Haiti--forces the affluent couple to talk out their problems. Directed by Harrison Page, Citrano turns in a droll performance as an empty-headed optimist who could find the silver lining in a funnel cloud.
"Melting in the Rain," directed by TV veteran Donna Pescow, slyly updates the old story of the con man and his female prey. Mark Porro plays a cad posing as a journalist assigned to interview Zoe Koenigsberg (Gloria Gifford), a loopy, Venice-based performance artist. Although Edelman takes too long to wind up for the pitch, this wistful vignette is lifted by sensitive performances and a perverse sense of fun.
The weak link is the slackly written "When Ahmet Met Sally," directed by Jeff Conaway. Fleeing death threats from leaders in his native land, a Rushdie-like novelist (Raye Birk) receives a birthday visit from a feisty prostitute (Elaine Giftos).
* "Hot Buttered Amour," Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Aug. 27. $20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes.