I saw this at The Kitchen on 7/15. My dear friend Frank put it on my radar months ago - - it’s a show that was done in the 80s and 90s in various guises under various names, written by Jeff Weiss and Richard C. Martinez. Frank had done some randy business in the show in the 90s, and my friend Jonathan Freeman had also performed in it. Jonathan’s retelling of the sketch in which he had surgery to become a Black woman, and then sang Billie Holiday’s “Until the real thing comes along” and Bessie Smith’s “I need a little sugar in my bowl” - - priceless!
The new production at The Kitchen was happening over three nights and revisited many of the scenes from the original shows. I stalked the Kitchen website and pounced on it the moment tickets went on sale. Good thing, because all three shows were sold out in three hours.
I got there quite early, knowing it was general admission, and spent forty minutes in the lobby waiting for the doors to open. The lobby eventually filled up, and everyone there seemed to know three, five, or fifteen other people in the audience. Lots of kissing, hugging, and “I haven’t seen you in years!” A very particular crowd for this show - - mostly folks my age and older, real downtown theatre types. I had the sinking feeling that the show in the lobby would be better than the show onstage, and I could not have been more right.
The show opened with Jeff Weiss singing a song a cappella, a cute little love song I didn’t know. He was wearing a sort of shlubby outfit, topped off with a hat like the one Jughead wore in the Archie comics. Then they did what he announced was the traditional opening number. The pianist played an intro and chills went up my spine (as they’re going up now) - - Weiss sang/spoke the verse to “Where or when”, that priceless Rodgers and Hart song. The rest of the company (about 20-30 people) stood in a semi-circle across the stage and sang the song, with at least half the audience (myself included) singing along. This was the highlight of the show, by far.
They opened with a sketch that featured a woman running auditions for a downtown theatre group. It was funny enough, a few good zingers on the downtown theatre scene - - a particularly funny bit about the actors working for less than minimum wage while their Romanian director has beachfront property in the Hamptons, the funniest joke I heard all night.
The musical director introduced a special guest, a cabaret singer named something like Allison Lipnik. In his introduction he said that she has a standing gig every Thursday night at a bar on Second Avenue, and I was impressed that he was able to say that without any hint of sarcasm. The song she sang was an indulgent little number about trying to capture the moon. Her voice is lovely and she has a sure sense of what she’s doing, but that doesn’t mean I like the song or the way she sang it. Plus that shade of eye shadow she was wearing - - it hasn’t been seen in public since *Charlie’s Angels* went off the air.
The longest sketch I saw was about two Japanese college boys putting the make on a 40-something Jewish woman. It was representative of the show in the fact that it was fixated on sex, especially gay and/or weird sex. This may have been titillating in the 80s, but today it’s just quaint. It also straddled the gap between clever and stupid, not as wide a gap as you might think. The sketch was not funny, it was not theatrical, it was not transgressive, and it was not over soon enough.
I looked in the program and saw that we were at scene 4 in a projected 18 scenes. This is not including the songs in between scenes. I decided to hold out until at least scene 6, which featured the great Kate Valk, of the Wooster Group. She played the private investigator in that sketch, a role originally played by the late Ron Vawter. She was marvelous, a real pro - - until she went up on her lines. She walked over to Weiss, asked him what the next line was and he laughed and laughed. That was cute.
Weiss finished the sketch by singing the “Chinese laundry blues”, such a cute song. And I left. I had been there an hour.