Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
July 8, 2011
One play’s called “Much Ado About Nothing,” and the other feels like it. It’s a long way from the Bard to the Borscht Belt. Shakespeare’s “Much Ado” is one of his most popular romantic comedies, and the Old Globe brings it back every few years for a new spin, set in a new timeframe, celebrating the brilliant banter between the reluctant lovers, Beatrice and Benedick . More on that in a minute. Now, back to the Catskills.
“My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy” doesn’t exactly announce itself as high drama. But it comes with a formidable pedigree: a two-year Off Broadway run. 700 performances, followed by a national – even international – tour. This show can’t possibly have been attended by actual New Yorkers. Especially those who’d ever heard of Henny Youngman, for whom the writer, Steve Solomon, reportedly opened onstage.
Heard the one about…? Yup. Every gag in this 90 minutes of standup shtick is old news. My husband, who’s not Jewish or Italian or from New York, was filling in the punchlines long before Ron Tobin, the amiable solo performer. This isn’t a play. It isn’t funny. It’s got stereotypes and fart jokes. But I’ve gotta say, the audience was howling. Definitely an older crowd, but they must’ve missed ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and Shelly Berman and Buddy Hackett and a zillion others of the post-Eisenhower era. But hey, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go for it. Though for my money, you can get better and fresher one-liners on Comedy Central. For free.
Meanwhile, at the Old Globe, there really is “Much Ado About Nothing.” The latest production was directed by Ron Daniels, who previously served as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s experimental theater. It doesn’t show here. This is a serviceable production, but not a memorable one. There’s a good deal of fussy business, especially with food and drink, and a few unnecessary dance interludes. Some of the stage pictures are quite attractive. The opening scene women’s sewing circle beautifully establishes the piece in the 19th century. But it doesn’t make much of a statement about that time or this.
Beatrice and Benedick , those clever, quippy , avowed unmarrieds , are played with gusto, if not edgy, impish acidity, by real-life husband and wife Jonno Roberts and Georgia Hatzis . Neither of them brings anything particularly deep or new to these juicy roles. Adrian Sparks is true to his name as the assemblage’s avuncular and emotional host, Leonato , and Winslow Corbett is delightful as his virginal daughter, Hero, who is impulsively loved, wronged and avenged. There’s nothing particular not to like in this production, but there’s nothing to love, either. This Summer Shakespeare Festival, I’m taking shelter in “The Tempest.”
“My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy ” runs through September 4, at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.
“Much Ado About Nothing ” runs outdoors at the Old Globe in Balboa Park, in repertory with “The Tempest” and “Amadeus,” through September 24.
©2011 PAT LAUNER