IF YOU GO
What: Two-person comedy about married life
When: 6 & 8:30 p.m. Wednesday & Thursday
Where: Daniels Pavilion at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
Information: 800-597-1900 or thephil.org
Free Art: Wednesday, Feb. 27 is "Art After Hours," with free admission at the Naples Museum of Art. Arrive early or stay late and enjoy the museum.
Something Else: The Pops concerts in Hayes Hall may make parking problematic for the 8:30 p.m. shows on Wednesday & Thursday.
On the Web: tomatoplay.com
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
NAPLES — Hands up if you're married. New comedy "You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!" playing through Thursday in the Daniels Pavilion at the Naples Philharmonic is for you. Like, seriously.
I was probably the youngest person in the room (quite possibly the only non-divorced, non-widowed singleton other than the staff). The rest of the crowd rolled over the laugh lines like a herd of hungry Early Birds headed for the free samples at Costco on Saturdays. They even laughed at the "Sarah Palin shooting a gay moose" jokes. In Naples. At the Philharmonic.
Actors had to stop the show again and again and again. The woman across the aisle knocked her cane across the floor she was laughing so hard. I wondered if the woman two seats down was going to need oxygen. I'll admit it was pretty funny, but the folks who said "I do?" They were having seizures.
So what is this laugh riot - and why should you attend?
"You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!" features Jeff and Annabelle, on a date commemorating their 10th wedding anniversary. Only Annabelle is 15 minutes later, arrives yapping into her cell phone and poor Jeff had to buy his own present (an iPad), which Annabelle writes off as a business expense.
Fifteen years of flashbacks weave in and out of scenes at the restaurant as the pair argue over their first meeting, dating, mating and relating. The title comes from George and Ira Gershwin song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," which was written for the 1937 Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire film "Shall We Dance."
You like potato and I like potatoe,
You like tomato and I like tomatoe;
Potato, potatoe, tomato, tomatoe!
Let's call the whole thing off!
Kevin Bartini and Gabrielle Mirabella bring the show to life (and the crowd to near tears from laughter). Bartini, a stand-up comic, comes out of the chute hot, even dropping his pants and shaking his but in the best "Magic Mike" style to prove he isn't wearing tighty whiteys. Even as he apologized to the white-haired patron in the first row, she clapped and howled and leaned in to enjoy the show. Wait till you get to the part where he compares begging for post-childbirth sex to navigating a minefield.
Florida native Mirabella offers a wry sense of humor and just the right amount of sass to counter Bartini's energy. Pizza cravings, a hilarious moment where Annabelle abandons her cat with Jeff for a month and more make her seem tolerant of a man-child husband. The pair's faux Facebook squabble, if a bit silly, does capture real life; how much Facebook drama have you witnessed lately?
Based on the real-life relationship of writers and creators Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, the show offers an aggressively humorous look at marriage. Gurwitch co-hosted TBS show "Dinner & a Movie," while Kahn wrote for "The Ben Stiller Show." Their version of marital bliss comes across much like a stand-up routine. Here, two well-rehearsed and well-versed funny people feed comedic softballs across the stage to each other.
Think of the show as something of a cross between a superb stand-up routine and humorous skits about marriage. Physical comedy, current events, social media, wine, babies and everything else gets tossed into the mix. Bartini waves a hanky as a white flag of defeat after he fails to seduce a tired Mirabella. She tackles him, then sits on his back on the stage when a new dad's "instinctual parenting" goes against her baby books. He tells her she has a pimple to make his hair-brained proposal scheme work - then locks himself out of the car.
If "Tomato" fails to offer much in the way of true depth besides a generic "our differences are what make our love stronger" message, the humor more than makes up for it. Rat-a-tat laugh lines about Brazilian waxes, baby pacifiers, boxer briefs, kitchen table sex and more flow like wine at a drunkard's feast.
You say tomato, I say "No thanks." Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.
Full Disclosure: Naples Daily News publisher Dave Neill is a member of the board of directors of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.