Written and Performed by Randy
Produced by Red Spear Productions, Emerging Artists Theatre,
and Laughing Stock Productions
Off Broadway, Puppetry/Solo Show
Runs through 6.9.18
Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
by Ed Malin on 5.6.18
Randy in Randy Writes A Novel. Photo by Chris McDonald.
BOTTOM LINE: Randy Writes A Novel is a very entertaining way to spend time with a bald purple puppet who has seen the world, muses on all manner of subjects, and has a good grasp of profanity.
Randy sits at a table with a typewriter, surrounded by crumpled papers from the lost drafts of his novel. He talks to the audience in his laid-back Australian way. While he has done this show in several countries, it's perhaps a new experience for much of the audience. Randy really wants you to converse with him, and moves his puppet head to stare you down (you'd swear he could see you), but if no one answers back then he has to change topics. I had a few minutes of back and forth with Randy about Harper Lee, which we both really enjoyed.
Before Randy gets down to reading his purported novel (he comically takes some time to open the book with his puppet fingers) he opens up a discussion about artists and crazy behavior. Is it better to be a good person who doesn't leave an impact on this world, or a lunatic who finishes a few works of art when he’s not hurting people? Hemingway floats in and out of the conversation (Randy provides a great biography of him in under four minutes). So does Harper Lee, who was satisfied with To Kill A Mockingbird until her lawyer (who some say exploited her) got Lee to publish the long-disavowed Go Set a Watchman. Do we have to wait for everyone to accept it for it to be art?
Incidentally, this is why Randy wants to read us the draft of his novel. In stand-up comedy, if people don't laugh, the joke is shit. Randy would rather have an audience destroy his novel (Walking To Skye, about a long hike up the edge of Scotland) so that he can revise it, rather than publish the thing and have hundreds of unsold books in his room. “The first draft of anything is shit,” as Hemingway may have said. But before Randy gets to reading from his draft, he tells us a story about his vegan diet. He gently explains that people think and believe that they need to eat meat, but belief is just another choice. He almost begins to read again, but then veers off into a hilarious, and strangely moving, story about an experience with Craigslist.
Clearly, Randy wants to spend most of the show not reading us his novel. “You know that enormous shopping mall that’s horrible?”—the way Randy remembers Cancun—is one of the many clever ways he gets the audience thinking about other things, which may be what they take away from the show. AJ Mattioli (technical and set) should be applauded for setting the tone: the set, along with the pleasantly edgy rock music, confronts us when we enter. Randy does tell us that this is not a show that you have to detach from reality to enjoy. He's right. When I saw it, it was mainly visitors to America who ended up engaging with Randy. Don't be afraid. Go see the show and talk to the guy.
(Randy Writes a Novel plays at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, through June 10, 2018. The running time is 80 minutes. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $81.25 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. For more information visit randywritesanovel.com.)
Randy Writes A Novel is written and performed by Randy. Set Design by AJ Mattioli. Lighting Design by Roger Cooper. Sound Design by Adam Weinstock. Stage Managers are Elizabeth Ramsay, Bianca Puorto, and Brianna Poh.