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Parental Discretion follows a thin but funny plot

TV writer Gary Goldstein's Parental Discretion is a peppery little comedy about an angst-ridden gay couple who can't decide whether to have a child. Optioned by Warner Bros. for TV, this bit of sitcom glitter opens the season for Little Room Downstairs with what could be called television-theater.

Lights come up on Brian (Matt Kelley), a Hollywood hack who has made a name script-doctoring such masterpieces as Hooters the Movie and I Married a Mime. He also writes scripts on speculation and dreams of seeing one of them flickering on the movie screen. We meet him in mid-composition, flailing away furiously at the computer (he doesn't type so much as poke and prod his laptop's keyboard).

Brian's action film focuses on an unfortunate hero who threatens his foe with such lines as, stop or "I'll puke down your fucking throat." No, mutters Brian, shaking his head and pacing his living room floor. After head-scratching and rewriting he comes up with: Stop or "I'll piss down your fucking windpipe." These are the silly kind of one-liners that pin together this thin script and make it, in spite of its undeveloped premise, very amusing.

Kelley's quirky timing and his wonderfully odd way of muttering inane lines to himself make Brian "the writer" hilarious and believable. Like most scribes, he's a man who spends too much time inside the workings of his own imagination. He dreams up conversations with his dead June Cleaver-style mother and endless hackneyed stock characters who have nothing original to say.

Brian is soon joined by contractor Dan (Tom Budd), his baby-hungry honey who just wants what he says "normal" people have. In fact, Dan has already designed a nursery addition for the house.

Brian is forced out of the inanity in his head and into the middle of a real-life drama more interesting than anything involving his action hero. He loves Dan, but he's not sure he wants a baby.

It isn't long before Brian and Dan are joined by best friend Carmen (Kimberly Nicole), a sexy, smart, single woman who has spent the "last six Saturday nights partying with Orville Reddenbacher." Nicole brings a synthesis of lovely, youthful energy and experienced comfort to the stage. She was smart enough to save the day when opening-night technical glitches screwed up the stage lights and threw the actors into the dark.

"What's wrong with the lights in this place?" she demanded, managing to stay completely in character. It delighted an audience that cheered her spunky resourcefulness.

Brian's troubles are doubled when his dad, Jack (Paul Sidello), comes to stay indefinitely. Turns out that the father has just lost his closet-designing business, his house and girlfriend. He's looking for a place to live while he gets his life together. Though he and his gay son have a tenuous relationship, Jack has nowhere else to go. He arrives with a truckload of suitcases and announces -- just in case the audience fails to get the metaphor -- that "closets are no place for any of us anymore."

Brian protests. "Dad, you can't live here."

"Why not?" Jack snaps. "You lived in my house for 18 years!"

Kooky, crazy people come and go, while the leads try to find the answer to life-changing dilemmas. Sidello is funny as the curmudgeon father (though the teal argyle socks ought to go) who constantly barks one-liners to his son. When he stumbles upon Brian and Dan smooching in the living room, Jack grumbles, "Don't mind me, I saw The Crying Game."

Goldstein felt compelled to include an irritating female couple, who may be the most annoying lesbians on the planet. They bring "lesbian meat loaf" and "lesbian pie" to a potluck dinner and do little except bicker and kiss. The only purpose of these characters appears to be that one of them has a mother who will eventually date Jack. We're thankful they come and go quickly.

This production is held together by the force of director Marcy Bannor, who keeps the pace lively. And the often hilarious black-out music includes everything from James Bond themes to Diana Ross's "Baby Love." All of this adds up to nothing more than amusing entertainment, but that's the way it is with television-theater.

Parental Discretion runs through October 2 at The Little Room Downstairs Theater, 2326 Bissonnet, (713) 523-0791. $12-$15.

 
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