THEATER: Gag Orders

Paul Rudnick's The Naked Truth is just a joke machine

When Neil Simon was fresh from his days as a TV writer, he thought comedy was one-liners. As he matured, Simon learned that the most enjoyable laughs come from character and situation. Of Lost in Yonkers he boasted -- correctly -- that its funniest scene has not one joke. Paul Rudnick, 36, the most gifted gagsmith of his generation, has yet to learn that lesson. He excels in Hollywood (Sister Act, Addams Family Values), where narrative is usually written by committee. On the stage, his first love, he has not moved beyond pastiche.

I Hate Hamlet had a catchy premise: a...

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