Set in a therapist’s studio, this lengthily titled play had most of the audience laughing loudly and steadily at the witty lines sparking out at us. But LESLEY STONES’S escort was sitting there in silence, a glum look on his face. “I’ve heard all the jokes before,” he muttered.
Well yes, a lot of the material in My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy! is familiar stuff, recycled by stand-up comedians, in email gags and joke books, or as old chestnuts that have done the rounds for years.
I argued that the delivery is so funny thanks to the brilliant Michael Richard. Well after the curtain fell we were still debating. Did the author, comedian Steve Solomon, write the jokes first then see them picked up and shamelessly recycled ever since, or did Solomon weave lots of existing popular jokes and silly situations into his play? Either way, you’ll laugh a lot then groan a little when you think “I’ve heard that one before”.
The play sees Richard portraying a middle-aged, midlife-crisis kind of guy going for therapy and blaming his polyglot background for muddling up too many contrasting cultures in his head. It’s pretty much Solomon’s own story, as he gave up a life in academia for the lure of showbiz and the pleasure of making people laugh.
It’s a one-man show that’s perfect for Richard, who never just acts a role, but entirely becomes the character. He’s absolutely at ease as this Jewish-Italian crossbreed with a never-faltering New York accent. He’s talking to us, not narrating, and it’s more of a stand-up comedy show with a plot woven through it than a play with some jokes thrown in.
The stage set by Wilhelm Disbergen is lovely, recreating a soothing old-world parlour. It’s complete with a piano and enough other props to help Richard regale us with stories of his childhood, religion, food and culture, young lust and bringing up children.
Director Charmaine Weir-Smith never lets the pace flag as Richard gives us an array of perfect expressions to emphasise his stories and lovely convincing accents as he mimics the characters in his confusing life. As well as his wacky parents there’s a sagacious old granny, a swaggering dumb-ass uncle and a plethora of psychiatrists, with Richard becoming them all through his actions and accents.
All of life and death is here, told with humour and candour. “Life is not for everybody,” one of his therapists concludes. And later he’s told: “It’s not a complex – you are inferior.”
It’s a clever script with some lovely wordplay and wonderfully caustic wit. You’ve heard some of the stuff before, but it’s packaged so nicely it’ll make you laugh again. DM
My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy! runs at Montecasino until 8 January.
For more reviews, visit www.lesleystones.co.za
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