An Evening of Dick

And this is not Dick Clark we're talking about here. It's Dick, an Oxford undergraduate and Aunt Maggie's nephew…the lead character in a new play by Eric Idle with songs by Mr. Idle and his Spamalot collaborator, John Du Prez. Last night, my friend Mickey Paraskevas took me to the first of four performances they're doing down at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. The performances, which continue through Sunday, are being video-recorded for sale or broadcast somewhere at some time. I would imagine they're going to edit together the best moments from the four tries but they could probably just go with what they did last night. The audience sure laughed and applauded a lot.

What's it about? I don't know. Something about a piano. Mr. Idle played the piano. Well no, actually, he didn't play the piano. He played the role of the piano, which is the narrator of the piece. A piano is the narrator? Believe it or not, that made more sense than almost anything else on the stage.

Now, when I tell you I don't know what this play I saw is about, it's not because I'm dumb or wasn't paying attention. I polled several friends I encountered at Intermission and they didn't know what the play was about. I asked some strangers sitting around us. They didn't understand the story, either. In fact, none of us could hear or understand half the dialogue and we still all found it very funny.

Part of this is due to the cast…and get a load of these names: In addition to Mr. Idle, there's Russell Brand, Billy Connolly, Tim Curry, Eddie Izzard, Jane Leeves, Jim Piddock, Tracey Ullman and Sophie Winkleman. Everyone was very funny but I have to tell you. Even when we couldn't understand what they were saying — which was half the time with Ms. Ullman and every single moment with Mr. Connolly — Tracey Ullman and Billy Connolly were hysterical.

The play is a staged reading of a live radio drama allegedly broadcast in 1941, though for some reason, they say the "f" word an awful lot which I don't think people did much on live radio in 1941. They also rarely mentioned Sarah Palin or the Kardashians, as the characters in this play set in 1941 do. Some of the hilarity comes from Bloopers-style screw-ups, many of which came from Eddie Izzard, who had the toughest roles. (Most cast members play several roles.) One of his characters was a seer from India named Deepak Rushdie Obi Ben Kingsley and while Mr. Izzard is a marvelous talent, his skill set does not include a good Indian accent. He was well aware of that, and also that he was missing cues, and was ad-libbing his apologies. He was quite funny in so doing. Everyone was quite funny. You'll especially enjoy it if you love double entendre references to "Dick" because there are an awful lot of them.

Our inability to hear half the lines was partly due to laughter drowning them out and partly due to a clumsy sound system. Mickey and I somehow got front row center seats — as close to the action as you can get without holding an Equity card. So in light of our problem, I wonder if they could hear anything clearly up in the balcony. The fact that they were howling with laughter up there doesn't mean they could because we folks down front couldn't hear a lot of it and we were laughing, too.

We had a glorious time and I want to mention two other "stars" of the evening. One is a gent named Tony Palermo who was onstage doing live sound effects in the style of old radio. He does them for many local productions and he's really good at them. And the other star was the Orpheum Theater, a grand old palace built in 1926. Not that long ago, it was in disrepair and there was talk of tearing it down before it fell down. Someone went in, spent millions and now it's magnificent and sparkling…but retaining that old-time feel.

It was a great place to spend a great evening…and if you're not going to be at any of the three remaining performances, don't despair. It was recorded and it'll be marketed somehow at some time. I'm looking forward to getting a DVD myself. Maybe if I watch it 10-20 times, I'll figure out what that thing I laughed so much at last night was all about.