Loopholes: A Pain in the I.R.S.
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Hudson Mainstage Theatre
Through May 17.
Why not a musical about taxes?
Stan Rich and Ronnie Jayne’s flippant tour de force about taxation with musical representation is a charming affair, though hardly enough to shake off our rage relating to any recent adventures with the I.R.S.
Rich and Jayne’s sweet musical slides by a fair way on upbeat silliness, while the straightforward structure and browbeating sensibility hardly make for sophisticated entertainment. To its credit, the work is Duty Free, meaning your only duty is to snicker at the cheesy jokes and facile lyrics.
Loopholes is based on Rich’s real experiences battling the I.R.S. following a tax debacle; that his tale is apparently true gives the musical an additional frisson of horror. The play concerns a financial advisor named “Izzy” Rich (Bruce Nozick), who, one morning, receives notice that he owes more money in penalty taxes than he has ever earned – a result of mendacious IRS calculation that credits a fortune in capital gains, but neglects to account for capital losses.
As a result, even with the assistance of brassy CPA/attroney Harry Grimm (Perry Lambert) and his sultry therapist Dr. Marsha Mellow (Caryn Richman), Izzy’s tax issues have devoured decades of Izzy’s life via court cases, audits, bankruptcies, and illegal loopholes. This is all because, deep in the bowels of the I.R.S. building, Howie Catchem (Brad Griffith), the most diabolical tax agent in the history of the institution, and his rookie associate Eileen Holmes (Camille Licate), have taken a vow to destroy Izzy’s life.
To its credit, Rich’s unpretentious play rarely strives for meaning more profound that a visceral hatred of the tax man – and the work’s attempts to be likable are generally successful. There are so many jokes and puns: Rich never met a one liner that he was unwilling to shoehorn into dialogue that’s often a cross between a Catskills night out and being hit over the head with Bennet Cerf’s jumbo joke book. “They stole the toilet from the police station — investigators had nothing to go on.” Ohhh.
Some of the gags work, and even when they don’t, the hamminess is cheering. Director Kiff Scholl embraces the dialogue’s gleeful frivolity with quick paced, sitcom-like exuberance.
The score is a mix of pleasantly simple melodies, with famous songs slightly rewritten with taxxy new lyrics – and music director Jayne’s staging possesses a vaudevillian feel. As the leads, Nozick and Richman are engaging, and possess a romantic chemistry that’s often touching and romantically mature, though their singing voices lack nuance and strain even to maintain the work’s comparatively simple melodies.
The show’s true focus, though, is on the lusciously venomous performances by the actors playing the diabolical I.R.S. agents. The wonderfully hammy Griffiths offers a hilariously spiteful turn that is reminiscent of nothing more than Vincent Price at his most intransigently sadistic moments. Also wonderful is Licate, as rookie associate, who morphs from innocent naïf into bureaucratic she-demon.
Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hlywd.; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; through May 17. (323) 960-7735, http://www.loopholesthemusical.com.