It would be easy to play "I Ought to Be in Pictures" as just another chapter in Neil Simon's continuing joke-book. There is, however, a fairly strong emotional subtext in this comedy about the reunion of a second-rate Hollywood screenwriter and the kooky daughter he abandoned, 16 years earlier, when he walked out on his marriage. And at the Hayloft Dinner Theater, that's where a competent cast is concentrating all its energies.
No Neil Simon comedy is entirely believable, but this production is more believable than most. Susan Duvall has the best part, as the pudgy daughter who claims she's come West to crash into movies, but really just wants a place in her father's heart. A bundle of self-confidence that keeps unraveling, Duvall's pluck is the sort that plucks the heartstrings. Wil Love makes the screenwriter an appealing failure, and Margaret Winn, as his drop-in girlfriend, transcends a thankless role with warmth and understanding.
The evening has few surprises, perhaps, but it can boast of the integrity of its actors, who are doing their best to convert Simon's quips into dramatic truths.
I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES. By Neil Simon. Directed by James Anthony; set, Doug Voet; lighting, Linda Ifert; costumes, Susan Forney. With Wil Love, Susan Duvall, Margaret Winn. Through Nov. 29.