STARS IN THE GUTTER, Hit 'n' Run Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. Subtitled "a celebrity freak show," Charles Bila's late-night comedy is based on the hateful but reliable premise that there's nothing funnier than watching someone else in pain. And if that someone also used to be a somebody, so much the better. Packing his play with famous and once-famous TV and movie stars (Margot Kidder, Richard Pryor), Bila finds some now so obscure--Mindy Cohn, for example, and Nancy McKeon--that he feels compelled to tell us who they played on TV: Cohn and McKeon both appeared on the loathsome sitcom The Facts of Life.
Sadly, Bila forgot to make his play funny, though it's amusing for a few minutes at least: Dana Plato and Todd Bridges, two hapless stars of Diff'rent Strokes, go on a killing spree and bump off the stars of The Facts of Life in the misguided belief that this will improve the chances for a Diff'rent Strokes reunion show.
But Bila depends way too much on his cast's ability to impersonate celebs. Sometimes they come through for him: Michelle Zee and Vergil Kelley make a great comic team as Plato and Bridges. But most of the time they don't: Scott MacDonell, who isn't bad as Pee-wee Herman, does one of the worst imitations of Divine I've ever seen. And why should they come through? Bila never bothered to give them a real comedy to begin with. --Jack Helbig