Nifty Knack

IN THE EARLY '60S, THE BRITISH COMEDY THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT was pretty far out. Like other titillating works of the era, such as Sex and the Single Girl, it celebrated the first blush of the sexual revolution. CityPlayers' revival of The Knack, which now seems downright quaint, is a fun, nostalgic look back at the dawn of the post-pill era, when it suddenly become okay to do it, and even fashionable to do it a lot.

The Knack follows three London lads of very different ilk. Tom is an ebullient swinger, embracing life and all its possibilities, as they would discreetly say (one of the first openly bisexual characters to appear in modern comedy). Ultra-cool Tolen, who can bag a bird in less than 10 minutes, is the one with "the knack." And at the other end there's spastic, sputtering Colin, anguished that the revolution might pass him by. It should be noted that in those heady days, even a squeaky geek like Colin had already lost his virginity. His problem, then, is that it's been six months since his last girlfriend, and the sum of his experiences barely equals Tolen's daily score. So he looks to his predator friend, hoping to learn from the master.

Enter Nancy, a pert 17-year-old trying to find the local YWCA (and also secretly hoping to learn some life lessons from a master). When Tolen aims to demonstrate his cold, mechanical, seduction technique on this inexperienced waif, it brings him into conflict with Colin, who wants her in a more gentlemanly and romantic way.

Actor Sean Zackson does a right proper job as Tom, the stabilizing balance between the extremes of Colin and Tolen. His playfulness is fun to watch as he revels in his good fortune to be alive amid the opportunities of that particular time and place. He works enthusiastically to build Colin's confidence, and is not intimidated by Tolen's brazen attempts at dominating the situation. We also catch him quietly watching out for Nancy's well-being while allowing the chase to play out.

Lori L. Rogers is believable as the wide-eyed and mostly willing Nancy. For all of the reminders that this is a work from another era, her trivialization of rape is even more stunning than her underage status. Rogers maintains the required '60s sensibility, despite its onerousness to '90s attitudes.

Newcomer Joey Mau is the real discovery as Colin. He stutters, shakes and struts in perfect nerd contrast to Gleeman's coolness. His manic exasperation is constant, at times bordering on parody, but thankfully always pulling back from that awful brink. He's clearly a young talent to watch.

The Knack...and how to get it is like watching original source material for Austin Powers. To understand why Mike Myer's shtick is so funny today, check out The Knack and see how those swinging times look in retrospect, through bifocals.

The Knack...and how to get it continues through September 5 at CityPlayers exp. Theatre, 37 W. 33rd St. Show time is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday. Tickets are $11, with a $1 discount for students and seniors. Seating is limited, so reservations are strongly recommended. For reservations and information, call 620-6099.

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