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Theater review: 'Goodbye, Louie...Hello!' at Theatre West

April 14, 2011 |  6:15 pm

Louie1507 The toxic legacy of the Hollywood blacklist informs "Goodbye, Louie…Hello!" at Theatre West. Although the late Allan Manings' final play has some pro forma aspects, its thematic veracity is hard to overlook.

Louis Berns (Alan Freeman) is a successful actor/comedian of the Sid Caesar generation. When we meet him in 2000, retiree and widower Louie is decamping to Arizona. Doting daughter Aimee (Maria Kress) and antagonistic son Scott (Paul Denniston) have mixed emotions about Dad's departure. Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken), Louie's longtime friend and professional sidekick, is more philosophical about losing his daily gin rummy partner, who entreats Benjy to join him out West.

When journalist David (Roy Vongtama) uncovers long-hidden facts in his research for a Vanity Fair profile on McCarthy-era comics, Louie violently resists his questions as Act 1 ends. Thereafter, the gently Borscht Belt-tinged character study gives way to an increasingly terse morality play.

Director John Gallogly keeps the stakes simmering and the tone pitched between lower-case Arthur Miller and the sitcoms that author Manings wrote after his 1961 return from blacklisted Canadian exile. The designs are serviceable, notably Jeff G. Rack's fine Central Park West set and Charlie Mount's unnerving sound cues, and the cast is proficient, with Freeman and Franken's invested work especially creditable.

However, a certain structural familiarity persists, the narrative often suggesting a vintage "Hallmark Hall of Fame" entry. Louie and Scott's explosive conflict, for instance, feels adroitly arranged, not unlike the parent/child clashes Manings and wife Whitney Blake created for "One Day at a Time." Yet locals who endured the history that "Goodbye, Louie's" hero cannot escape may find it quietly rending.

-- David C. Nichols

"Goodbye, Louie … Hello!," Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $22-$25. (323) 851-7977 or Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Photo: Alan Freeman, left, and Steve Franken. Credit: Thomas Mikusz