The bickering between Molly and Jerry (Lisa Thomas Morrison and Josh Morrison) gets old quickly.
The bickering between Molly and Jerry (Lisa Thomas Morrison and Josh Morrison) gets old quickly.
Courtesy of Theater LaB Houston

Not Neighborly

Noisy neighbors can ruin a perfectly good day. Nobody knows that better than Jerry Schiff, the down-on-his-luck character at the center of Daniel Stern's Barbra's Wedding, now playing at Theater LaB Houston. Anyone who's seen Home Alone or the sitcom Regular Joe will recognize Stern, who's most known for his acting. But now the thin actor with curly hair has ventured into scriptwriting, and his first play is a lot like the comedies he's known for. Lightweight, mildly amusing Barbra's Wedding imagines what it must have been like for a pair of Barbra Streisand's uninvited neighbors on the afternoon she married James Brolin in Malibu.

For Jerry (Josh Morrison) and his wife Molly (Lisa Thomas Morrison), the noisy afternoon is a disaster of life-changing proportions. In the first place, poor Jerry is a washed-up actor whose only real claim to fame is a brief stint on a sitcom called Everything's Peachy. So as he watches glittering stars traipse across his yard on their way to Barbra's wedding, he burns with jealousy and shame. Why wasn't he invited, he wonders aloud over and over.

His wife, on the other hand, is trying to make the best of things. She's baked an exotic dish with a fancy name (that turns out to be fish pie) in order to make the afternoon special. She knows it's going to be difficult for her neurotic husband. Unfortunately, her food is inedible, and to make matters worse, the paparazzi helicopters hovering in the air above their house won't let Jerry forget he isn't on the guest list.


Barbra's Wedding

Theater LaB, 1706 Alamo, 713-868-7516.

Through December 9. $20-$25.

The two begin to argue, and the argument goes from bad to worse. In fact, the entire script is shaped around their constant battling. All Jerry can think of is himself and his lousy career. Molly, reasonably enough, gets fed up with his self-involved whining. She finally decides to get away from her husband and all the hoopla next door, but she isn't gone long before she storms back in. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hummer is parked across their driveway. And Maury Povich is out front on their lawn conducting interviews with the beautiful people.

Jerry is so taken by all the goings-on, he doesn't seem to care in the least when his wife informs him that the two need a break. He can only think about how he might impress Maury. Molly is so outraged at her husband's groveling -- he waves at Maury whenever he opens the front door -- that she's reduced to doing nothing but yell at him. But Jerry refuses to accept the fact that he's a nobody in a world full of somebodies.

The conflict between the pair comes to a head when Robert Redford shows up and gives Jerry "the signal," or at least that's what the pathetic man imagines when he sticks his head out the door and catches "Bob" waving in the direction of the house. Jerry thinks Redford has invited him to the wedding. After all, Jerry and Redford did pose for a photograph together some years back, and Jerry's kept the evidence carefully framed in his living room ever since.

The verbal shouting match turns into a physical fight as tiny Molly leaps onto her husband's big back to save him from making a complete fool of himself, or even worse, getting arrested for crashing the wedding. Once she's got him quiet, she performs a kind of exorcism on him to help the actor get over his perpetually starry eyes. She wants him to live in the real world, where he can see how much she loves him, and maybe even take a job with his dad so that he can make some money for a change.

As in all sitcoms, everything ends well. And if this were a half-hour sitcom, complete with 15 minutes of commercials, this script might actually work. Instead, director Susan Koozin and her bright cast work hard to make a mountain out of a molehill of material. Jerry and Molly's bickering gets old quickly. And though both Morrisons (the actors are married in real life) are inventive and energetic performers, there's only so many ways to pick an argument. After a while, this begins to feel like the fights of most married people -- something that ought to happen in private.


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