THE MISER, Bit Productions, at Famous Door Theatre. With this production the Tobacco Lobby, a team from ImprovOlympic, has jumped into the professional theater pool. Unfortunately, none of them can swim. Their "adaptation" of Moliere's classic farce eliminates almost all the wit, charm, and poetry of the original. Instead we get improv-style repetition--"You horrible boy!" ad nauseam--as bland as the sandwiches in the "contemporary" setting, a Greek diner.

With the same level of enthusiasm and incompetence as a high school production, this show drowns in shallow water. The elderly miser has a black ten o'-clock shadow on his "bald" head. Emotional pain is communicated by long pauses between lines (always a plus for the pacing of farce). A goofy accent means a character is funny. Sitcom naturalism vies with clumsy Saturday Night Live buffoonery (which must be what the press release means by "commedia").

New Yorker critic Edith Oliver used to say, "It's not a crime to produce a bad play." And yet The Miser's audience has to serve its time. The production uses up about two hours of late-night partying potential, and Friday's audience of young improvisers amused themselves by practicing routines at intermission, hooting and moaning during blackouts, and in the case of one front-row patron, napping whenever possible. Let the buyer beware. --Carol Burbank

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