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The waiting is over

March 11, 2006|By Michael Miller

COSTA MESA ? A week ago, Estancia High School debuted this year's student-written sketch comedy show, "Waiting for Hurwitz." On Thursday evening, at its fourth performance, the play took on an unexpected twist.

Hurwitz showed up.

Every year, Pauline Maranian's drama students put together a two-hour revue of sketches, songs and dances that skewer both modern culture and school life. This time, the show has an unusual premise, as the characters have invited TV writer Mitch Hurwitz ? a 1981 Estancia graduate and the author of the school's first sketch revue ? to attend their performance. Needless to say, he never arrives.

On Thursday, though, the school held a special show for alumni of its theater department and invited Hurwitz. It was a rare case of life imitating art; until minutes before curtain time, the cast wasn't sure if he would make it. In the end, though, the creator of the TV comedy series "Arrested Development" came out and took a bow ? giving "Waiting for Hurwitz" a one-time happy ending.

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"It felt presumptuous to go," Hurwitz said. "The whole purpose of the play is that I never show up. Godot never showed up. Guffman never showed up. But I'm so glad I came."

Both of the works Hurwitz cited were inspirations for the Estancia show. In Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot," a pair of drifters stands in the middle of nowhere awaiting a mysterious stranger; Christopher Guest's comedy "Waiting for Guffman" concerns a small-town theater troupe that unsuccessfully invites a New York critic to its show.

Likewise, "Waiting for Hurwitz" opens with a group of students onstage, fretting over whether their famous alum will attend the evening's performance. At the end, after the sketches have concluded, the cast sets a chair on the stage with Hurwitz's name on it ? misspelled ? and the lights go down with the seat still empty.

In between, the cast pays tribute to Hurwitz in another way. In 1981, the future scriptwriter started an Estancia tradition by writing "Wet Paint," a "Saturday Night Live"-style program of short, fast sketches that captured every aspect of students' daily lives. Since then, the school's drama department has followed in Hurwitz's footsteps every year ? except for the targets of satire, which change all the time.

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