Premiering in 1961, Come Blow Your Horn was Neil Simon’s first big success, a comedy detailing the complications that arise when Buddy Baker, now 21, comes to live with his older brother Alan in his bachelor pad, in the urbane, sophisticated setting of New York City. Both Alan and Buddy work for their dad, who manufactures decorative fruit. Alan is most definitely a player, but he is more than willing to tutor his younger brother in the art of seduction and juggling of scrumptious, willing women. When Buddy shows up with his suitcase, Alan has just returned from a long weekend at a ski lodge with Peggy Evans. Alan can’t even remember the sweet girl’s name, but he keeps her on the hook by promising he’ll introduce her to a successful Hollywood producer. Buddy has left home without telling his parents his plans, and he’s so frightened of their unavoidable histrionics, he’s ready to move back. Alan convinces him it’s all for the best, and to stick it out.
For Alan’s part, his work record is checkered at best, and he’s torn between his undeniable feelings for Connie Dayton, and his carefree lifestyle. Connie would never manipulate Alan, but she’s understandably weary of dealing with his ambivalence. Buddy and Alan’s parents are struggling to deal with their own cluster of neuroses, and mother’s decided it’s easier to move in with her sons than deal with their dad and his never-ending jeremiads.
If I suggest that Neil Simon might have a formula, I do so only with the greatest admiration and affection. He has a gift for exploiting domestic discord and bolstering it with shtick. For all the glib deprecation and kvetching, his stories have great heart. No tribulation is so overwhelming it can’t be deflated with humor. The great twist in Come Blow Your Horn is Buddy’s personality shift. Once he acclimates to his new, permissive male digs, he’s even better at the predatory bachelor life than older brother. Alan is aghast as he witnesses awkward, shy Buddy morph into a poised, jazzy Lothario.
As we have come to expect, Rover Dramawerks has unearthed another forgotten gem, and given it lots of dazzle and polish. It’s strange how living in an age of cynicism can make you ache for nostalgia. The humor in this production is intuitive and unforced. Warm and buoyant. It takes a lot of skill to get the balance and chemistry of Neil Simon just right, and I have to say director Misty Baptiste’s work here is superlative. It was funnier than the film and ten times as impressive.
Rover Dramawerks presents Come Blow Your Horn, playing July 16th – August 8th, 2015. 221 West Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, Texas 75023. 972-849-0358. www.roverdramawerks.com