S.A.M. I AM, the late Garrett Omata's affable urban comedy, is, at its best, nothing more than a sitcom, and at its worst -- nothing more than a sitcom. Broad, cheery, and wryly simple in that syndicated-television kind of way, the Repertory Actors Theatre's staging at the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center can't keep the piece from trivializing itself, but the whole thing plays out without causing too much harm.

Egged on by David Hsieh's excited direction, the actors indulge in the occasional overstated gesture, but damned if they aren't all a really appealing group of people. Joseph S. Yang, with a nice, low-key delivery, plays lovestruck John Hamabata. He's a Single Asian Male who pulls a Cyrano de Bergerac and starts writing as "the voice for every frustrated Caucasian in America," in order to impress an unwitting Jackie (impish Colleen Parker), his cousin's Sam Shepard-obsessed roommate. Kathy Hsieh makes a sunny Betty, who tries to get her cousin John not to make a fool of himself, then ends up falling for his dim roommate, Lohman (Tony Lee in a funny turn as a horny slacker).

It isn't long before, you know, hilarity ensues, and people run around saying things like "I know where my life is going, do you?" Oh well. It's not easy shrugging everything off after a while, but Omata gets in a few good ones and hands John a nice reFLection or two ("When I'm with a Japanese woman, I guess it makes me feel more American"). I wish he hadn't resorted, though, to some of his more obvious stereotypes. He throws in some pretty random supporting characters -- as a dumb blonde, Kim Anh Yanda is written and directed into a grievously unfunny corner. I suppose I could applaud the attempt at dealing with ethnic, cultural, and romantic issues if Omata hadn't lost trust in himself somewhere in the process, and started spelling everything out for us. As it is, S.A.M. is a painless experience of no real consequence.

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