While working as extras on "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," an incredibly bored couple began to write a comedy that would showcase their talent. William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore passed the time between takes writing what eventually became "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S."
They had never written a play before. Because it was the '70s, cut and paste was literal. Van Zandt did not want to retype entire pages, so the rewrites involved whiteout and the need to come up with nine-word jokes to replace nine-word jokes. For that reason, the character Jon Trachtman (Jim Oxborrow) is Jon, and not John because of a typo. In the words of Van Zandt, "I was too lazy to type the extra 'h.' "
The play opened in the summer of 1979 to rave reviews. Not long after that, Samuel French decided to publish the play and requested to publish their next two. The new writers, who had never intended to become writers, have gone on to create 21 additional plays over the years, including their current off-Broadway comedy hit, "You've Got Hate Mail." Although Van Zandt and Milmore are no longer a romantic couple, they remain writing partners with more than 300 hours of sitcom credits that include "Newhart," "The Hughleys," "Martin," "The Wayans Bros." and "Yes, Dear." Although you may not have heard of "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.," rarely does a theatrical season pass that there isn't a production of it somewhere in America.
Jim Oxborrow (left) and Tom Althouse in a scene from “Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.”
JACK GRACE photo
Funny guy Augie T will get the laughs going Friday at Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater.
Photo courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center
"I.R.S." is a wild farce with twists of fate, sight gags, mistaken identities and hilarious comic lines. Jon and Leslie Arthur (Tom Althouse) are out-of-work musicians who room together in New York City. To save money, Jon has been filing tax returns listing the pair as married. The day of reckoning comes when the Internal Revenue Service informs the couple they're going to be investigated by a Mr. Spinner (David Negaard).
Leslie masquerades as a housewife, aided by Jon's fiancee, Kate (Patty Sylva). Complicating matters further, Leslie and Kate are having an affair behind Jon's back. Jon's mother Vivian (Beth Garrow), then drops in unexpectedly to meet her son's fiancee, and Leslie's girlfriend Connie (Julianna Scharnhorst), shows up demanding to know why Leslie is avoiding her, only to be told that he is a closeted transvestite.
Set in the 1970s, this Maui OnStage production will remind you of "Three's Company," "I Love Lucy" and "Some Like it Hot." Lee Garrow, previously seen in "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" and "A Christmas Carol," makes his Maui directorial debut. In the interest of full disclosure, I assisted Garrow in rehearsals for a few weeks, which allowed the chance to get to know this play and its cast.
Before retiring to Maui in 2008, Garrow worked for the Wausau Community Theatre since 1976, where he directed more than 15 productions. I asked if he had an all-time favorite directing gig.
" 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' and 'The Amorous Flea,' which is a musical adaptation of a Moliere play ('The School for Wives')," he says.
Garrow has a natural sense of, and eye for, physical comedy, and I wanted to know what he attributed it to.
"I think watching 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Carol Burnett Show.' Those two are my comedy inspirations," explains Garrow. "I wanted to direct 'I.R.S.' because it's a farce with lots of physical stuff. In most farces, the author doesn't put a lot of that stuff in print. You have to find it, and they leave it up to you to create the physical bits. I like that. Audiences can expect a fast-paced slapstick comedy."
* Maui OnStage presents "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S." by William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, directed by Lee Garrow, and starring Tom Althouse, Beth Garrow, Perry Kunin, David Negaard, Jim Oxborrow, Julianna Scharnhorst, Patty Silva, and Russ Taft. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays; from Sept. 27 through Oct. 6 at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved-seating tickets range from $17 to $28 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or details, call 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats at www.mauionstage.com.
Also this weekend
Described as "a musical of, for, and by the people," "brilliant," "remarkable" and "sharper than a pound of cheddar cheese," "Broadway's Next H!t Musical" will be in performance for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. This original award-winning improvised musical creates a brand-new show every night. The first act is a made-up awards ceremony with songs from the "Best Musical" nominees, based on audience-created song titles. The second act is an entire musical improvised from the winning song. Tickets are $12, $25 and $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Also at the MACC, catch popular comedian and on-air personality, Augie T, at McCoy Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The comedian returns with more of his hilarious "Laugh Out Loud" local-style humor. Comedian Lanai will be Augie's special guest. Tickets are $20 and $35.