"Would you believe" ... "Missed it by that much" ... "Sorry about that, Chief."
These phrases tend to have the same effect on seasoned theatergoers as Doc Brown's DeLorean. They transport you back to a time when television was goofier, if not always funnier. They land you in the mid-1960s when Don Adams reigned on the tube in "Get Smart."
Back then, James Bond and Inspector Clouseau were the hottest movie sleuths, and a television satire of the genre was demanded. "Get Smart" was created by the one and only Mel Brooks, who went on to cinematic immortality but hadn't quite ripened in 1965.
Brooks shares authorship credit with adapter Christopher Sergel in the stage version of "Get Smart," now on the stage of the Huntington Beach Playhouse. It's a well-intentioned but somewhat uneven effort where satire and humor often are upstaged by pure silliness.
Director Philip Brickey has a large ensemble with which to work, but the show, like the script, sags in several areas. Increasing the tempo might serve the purpose, but it also would give the audience less time to digest the outlandish plot lines.
As the bumbling Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, Seth Weiner does a credible job of feigning thick-headedness, but lacks Adams' gift of turning a phrase for maximum effect. More accomplished is his partner, Christi Pedigo as the alluring Agent 99, who combines brains and beauty quite nicely.
Frank Valdez frets effectively as the chief, who's just as far off the mark as Smart. Gil Morales simmers as a scientist whose creation may destroy humanity, while Camryn Hohneker charms as a Scandinavian princess with a faulty memory.
The two best performances of the show come from Lisa Renee as a fiendish double agent and Rick Werblin as "Mr. Big," an ironic title since the actor appears to stand about 3 feet tall.
With three Asian operatives (Lani O'Brien, Honyin Chiu and Laurie Reynolds) and their weapons in synchronicity, the show approaches its satirical goal. Rob Bergman assists as the lowly agent who draws all of the dirty assignments.
All, however, are stymied by Sergel's ham-handed treatment of Brooks' original creative style. You might say they missed it by that much.
A few weeks ago another TV favorite, "The Addams Family," opened locally, showing the lofty levels available for such retro productions. "Get Smart" has a ways to go in this respect.
IF YOU GO
What: "Get Smart"
When: Till Nov. 19; 8 p.m. Fridays and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays
Where: Huntington Beach Playhouse, 711 Talbert Ave.
Cost: $22 to $25