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THEATER REVIEW : ‘Loose Lips’ Blooper Parade Ranges From Funny to Smug

TIMES THEATER CRITIC

One day Casey Kasem, the disc jockey with the kindly voice, lost his temper. He either didn’t know or didn’t care that he was being recorded. He was telling his listeners about the death of a little dog named Snuckles, when he got mad at some technician because he thought the segue music going into the Snuckles piece had been too upbeat. Suddenly Kasem was frothing at the mouth, using every four-letter word in the book. If Snuckles had been in the room, Kasem might have kicked him for good measure.

This taped “blooper” is hysterical, and it opens “Loose Lips” at the Santa Monica Playhouse, a compilation of verbatim misspeaks by the likes of Prince Charles, Frances Ford Coppola, Spike Lee, tobacco company executives, Mickey Rourke, Ivan Nagy, Bob Packwood and Michael Jackson’s maid. This is a kind-of theatrical version of “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” (minus the practical jokes). After the Kasem debacle, the rest of the bloopers are not played on tape, but rather are acted out by a cast of six clean-cut young people, all dressed in denim and khakis. Transition from blooper to blooper is provided by a celebrity guest host, who until Sunday is Robert Morse.

“Loose Lips” is put together by three sometime journalists: Lisa Birnbach (author of “The Official Preppy Handbook”), Kurt Andersen (editor in chief of New York magazine) and Jamie Malanowski (senior editor at Esquire), all previously associated with the once-hot, gossipy magazine Spy. The authors have compiled some very funny material for “Loose Lips,” bizarre and revealing misspeaks, either on the witness stand or off. They have also supplied the slapdash segues between the bits, which sound as if they were written in about one hour, late one evening, after a couple of drinks.

“An eavesdropper’s paradise” is how Morse, in his endearingly avuncular way, describes the evening. But, unfortunately, except in the case of Kasem, we are not listening to the real thing but to actors who are directed by Martin Charnin to cutely underline every nuance and laughline. The young cast seems to be auditioning for “Saturday Night Live,” and they repeatedly turn real people into cartoons. The funniest bit, an overheated conversation on the mound between Tommy Lasorda and a reluctantly outgoing pitcher, is the funniest because it is played relatively straight by the two women in the cast, Ingrid R. Rockefeller and Sara Pratter.

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Further, “Loose Lips” takes on an icky quality when the all-white cast acts out the more outrageous and inane moments of African Americans Marion Barry, Spike Lee and Rep. Major Owens.

Despite the reminder in the narration that we all do and say embarrassing things, “Loose Lips” takes the smug attitude of a group of privileged people looking askew at the antics of idiots, even if the idiots include royalty (Prince Charles’ reflections on being a tampon to Camilla Parker-Bowles is included).

Gregg Berger, Scott Bryant, Keith Primi and Luke Toma round out the cast. Guest hosts coming up include Steve Landesberg (Nov. 9), Joanna Kerns (Nov. 24), Joanna Gleason and Chris Sarandon (Dec. 7), Fred Savage (Dec. 21) and Charles Nelson Reilly (Jan. 4).

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* “Loose Lips,” Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica, Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 and 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 and 7:30 p.m. Ends Jan. 14. $25. (310) 394-9779, Ext. 1. Running time: 90 minutes.


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