June 10, 2005
Sam Brown needs to calm down. The dark-eyed Boston-born comic, who suggests a cross between Bruce Willis and Joe Piscopo, races through much of his one-man show "Neurotica" like he's got something to prove.
Maybe he does. For instance, is he funny? On the evidence of this autobiographical stomp through failed relationships, crackpot therapy and family nostalgia, yes and no.
Brown can be an engaging and versatile performer, giving each of his characters distinct voices and tics, even in rapid-fire group scenes. He scores some tart zingers and has some genuinely vertiginous arias.
But when "Neurotica" isn't reaching for straight-faced pathosŅas in a moving final tribute to Brown's idealized late fatherŅit trips over itself, setting up gags and set pieces that are too forced to tickle us or too rapid-fire to land. Jon Shear's direction is tight and the show's design first-rate, particularly Robert Oriol's lighting and sound design, which turns Karyl Newman's blue set into a convincing approximation of an isolation tank. If Shear could also bust up Brown's speed-freak/hothead shtick, this might be a pretty effective solo show.
"Neurotica," Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays. Ends June 18. $15. (323) 960-7861. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.