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Theater review: 'Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant' at the Lillian Theatre

August 25, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant

Even Cary Grant said he wanted to be Cary Grant. And why not? Cinema’s well-tailored Prince Charming made everything look effortless — whether fleeing a murderous crop duster or taming Katharine Hepburn.  Still, no one’s quite prepared for an African American on death row to go all C.K. Dexter Haven in Rick Pagano’s inventive but awkward legal drama, “Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant,” now at the Lillian Theatre.

Tightly wound defense attorney Roberta (Erin Carufel) doesn’t believe Thomas (Kim Estes) killed his wife, but it’s hard to exonerate a man who’d rather tango than take a buccal swab test. Meanwhile, Roberta’s managing her alpha judge dad (Jan Munroe) and beta boyfriend (Randolph Adams), when what she really needs is a glass of wine and a night on the couch with “Notorious.” 

With its junky two-tiered set by Adam Hunter, clumsy blocking and uneven cast, “Treat Yourself” is hardly a fitting tribute to its dapper muse. There are patches of good writing, and a handful of surprises, but Pagano hasn’t found the most elegant version of his tale, ultimately the re-education of perfectionist Roberta.  And why all the coy talk about race? Tip a few sacred cows, Rick. An audience is open to anything when it’s delivered with that irresistible Grant grin.

--Charlotte Stoudt

“Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant,” the Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 18. $20. (323) 960-7745 or Running time: 2 hours. 

Photo: Erin Carufel, left, and Kim Estes. Credit: Randolph Adams