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The story is threadbare, but it's not the story that makes the play fun. It's the swirling, chaotic scenes with Keystone Kops and Smokey the Bear (who chops down a tree), with a midget doughnut man and a magnificently tacky myna bird, with hip background music ranging from Lou Reed to Louis Armstrong, with a Russian doctor and a long-haired hoodlum who steals a cream pie from an improbably old Fed Ex courier and throws the pie in the doctor's face. Frank Potter plays the hoodlum, and he's just as hilariously sullen here as he was in American Buffalo last January. The midget is Matthew Razis, who once worked for George Lucas as an Ewok: He makes an excellent doughnut man, though as Jeanie's friend Ronald he sounds like he's reading an imaginary teleprompter. Chloe Taylor has one good speech as Jackie, telling Harry about her past and trying to explain how she wants a different life: "No, I don't want you to move out," she says wearily, rolling her eyes. "I'd miss you. You're like part of the furniture."

But it's Ian Hirsch who does the real acting. He was good too in American Buffalo and he's so well-cast as Harry -- with a growly Bronx-ish accent and apelike hairy arms -- that he's at serious risk of being typecast as some kind of lowlife. His best moment the night I saw him came during a monologue about Harry's background in metaphysics. Harry listed all the philosophers he'd heard of, and an audience member in the front row, possibly fooled by the beer into thinking Just Wild About Harry was an interactive play, started to yell encouragement -- "Schiller! Spinoza!" Jackie asked Harry how he knew these esoteric things, and Hirsch, straight-faced, improvised: "I used to room with the guy in the front row," he said. "He was a real psycho." Henry Miller would have been proud.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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