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Threadbare Laughs in `Mixed Emotions'

MIXED EMOTIONS Comedy by Richard Baer. Starring Katherine Helmond and Harold Gould. At the Golden Theatre.

IN the new Broadway comedy ``Mixed Emotions,'' one of the characters mentions the old Latin Quarter, and that reference gets the biggest response of the evening.

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That should tell you something about the type of play this is, and the audience that it is intended for.

Katherine Helmond and Harold Gould star as Christine and Herman, two old friends who have both lost their spouses.

Now Christine is packing up to move to Florida, and Herman, stopping in to say goodbye, suddenly proposes marriage.

Christine is aghast at this idea, warning Herman, who has compared himself to a stallion, not to ``come braying'' in her direction because she is determined to be on her way. But Herman is equally determined to get her to marry him.

While it's refreshing to see a play in which the relationship involves an older couple, vulgarity and jokiness work against ``Mixed Emotions.'' The characters serve as little more than vehicles for wisecracks, and in this regard playwright Richard Baer is no Neil Simon.

This is particularly true with the only other characters in the play, two moving men whose function seems to be to stop the action, such as it is, and remove furniture. By the end, of course, Herman and Christine have found happiness just when the stage is bare.

Gould and Helmond have charm to spare, and they are able to squeeze laughs even out of this threadbare material. But the play, a throwback to the Broadway of decades ago, merely illustrates how sophisticated TV sitcoms have become.

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