Critics have had decidedly mixed reactions to productions of "Love, Sex and the IRS," opening tonight at Olympia Little Theatre.
A production in Costa Mesa, Calif., was dismissed by Los Angeles Times critic Mark Chalon Smith as “a piece of piffle, theatrical lint.”
Perhaps, said Kendra Malm, directing the Olympia production, such critics are taking the show a little too seriously.
“It has a lot of clever writing and character situations,” she said. “It’s rather like a ’70s sitcom. It has a lot of that feel of being like ‘Three’s Company’ or something like that, where you’ve got silly situations, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously in the first place. It is definitely a farce. It has the mistaken identities, it has the pratfalls, it has the quick entrances and exits, it has the cross-dressing.”
The 1979 play actually sounds more like 1980-1982’s “Bosom Buddies,” starring Tom Hanks. The action concerns two male roommates who have pretended for tax purposes that they are married.
One is named Leslie, and apparently the Internal Revenue Service isn’t paying attention to gender. But when the pair are audited, Leslie winds up donning a dress.
“It’s not campy,” Malm sad. “It’s not ‘To Wong Foo’; it’s more of the feel of ‘Tootsie.’ It looks like a guy who is trying really hard but not quite getting it. We wanted to make him look more an ugly woman than a guy in drag.”
The sitcom style is not surprising if you know playwrights Jane Milmore and Billy Van Zandt are TV writers who write and act in a play together each summer during their hiatus. (They wrote for Bob Newhart’s show in 1998 and 1999.)
“Love, Sex and the IRS” was the duo’s first play, and it has remained popular over the years, Van Zandt told the New York Times in a 1997 interview.
“The plays start out as workshops,” he said. “We fix them afterward, and they wind up in summer stock all over the country. ‘Love, Sex and the IRS’ is the most frequently done – every day, it seems, somewhere. Brazil, Germany, Japan.”
And now, Olympia. And just in time for tax season.
Speaking of which, Malm sees just a bit of relevance in the play, which she’s been wanting to do since she saw a production when she was in college.
“It is about cheating on your taxes,” she said. “There is certainly a lot in the news about people up in arms about taxes, the tax revolt and the tea party and all that sort of stuff. It’s light and frivolous, but it includes this perennial American theme of not wanting to pay taxes.”
Love, Sex and the IRS
What: Olympia Little Theatre presents a zany comedy with the silliness and ’70s sass of “Three’s Company.”
When: 7:55 p.m. today and Saturday; Thursday-March 19, 25-26 and 31; and April 1-2 and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, March 27 and April 3
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. N.E., Olympia
Tickets: $10 for Thursday shows and $12 for weekend shows; available online or at Yenney Music
More information: 360-786-9484 or www. olympialittletheater.org