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Goodenough

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Goodenough isn't. It isn't good enough for the theatre. It isn't a good enough effort by writer William F. Becker. It isn't good enough to overcome the meager talents of the cast (who won't be implicated in this review), the seemingly nonexistent design, the lazy, nonchalant direction. It isn't good enough to be the first show I saw on the L.A. stage in 2002. But there's no going back. Those two hours are gone forever and, one hopes, things can only get better.

Becker, who also directs--if you can call it that--has written a paper-thin comedy. Or drama? It really isn't representative of either genre. The only mask it should wear is that of shame. Because this is by far the most uninvolving, untheatrical, messy production I've seen in L.A. in five years. And that's saying a lot.

The plot, so to speak, follows the day-to-day life of agoraphobic writer Gladstone Goodenough, a randy, overweight, self-pitying slob, for whom we are supposed to root against the machinations of his ex-wife, a "bitch" lawyer who won't let him see his children--and all he did was burn down their house in a drunken stupor!--and the schemes of his conniving neighbor who sleeps with Goodenough for money, hoping to get her hands on his trust fund. As far as I'm concerned, if she can suffer through sex with this guy, she deserves a king's ransom. Then there's Goodenough's landlady. She says "friggin'" all the time, so, see, she's a New Yorker and really funny. Get it?

Not all women in Goodenough's world are bad, though. There's the hardworking waitress who brings the housebound Goodenough his meals. She's black. Now don't freak out, like most of the other characters in the show do. Goodenough will soon teach you that "friends come in all different colors," a lesson he passes on to his unintentionally creepy son who has escaped the clutches of his "bitch" mother to help Goodenough complete his screenplay. See, Goodenough found a copy of How To Write a Screenplay in the trash and has decided to bring his life story to the screen. Would that Becker had turned up a book on playwriting at the local dump.

Adding nothing to the proceedings are a couple of cliches: Goodenough's holier-than-thou priest brother and a Japanese delivery boy who--surprise, surprise--doesn't speak English well. But they're beside the point. The crux of this piece rests on the fact that Goodenough might lose his trust fund money if he continues to harbor his son--and then, my God, we would never get his fascinating life story on film. But just when things look bleakest, Goodenough inherits millions from a dead aunt. I'm not making this stuff up. He also learns the horrible truth about his greedy neighbor. She has a husband already. He just died of cancer and she never cared for him. He was the cousin of the friggin' landlady, don't you know, so that's how he finds out.

Becker's writing isn't good enough to be called sitcom. It's just the cobbled-together amalgam of stale, leftover ideas of a thousand unfunny plays, under the guidance of a made-for-television mentality. Consider it the ghost of bad community theatre past, one that will hopefully dissipate quickly in the promise of the coming year.

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