By Jay Malsky; Directed by Zak Sommerfield
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street
by Jessica Foley on 8.17.15
Jay Malsky in Elaine Stritch Still Here.
BOTTOM LINE: Jay Malsky perfectly embodies the late Elaine Stritch in his new solo show.
As the daughter of a funeral director who grew up in a funeral home, I am not a person who easily gets choked up when famous people I have never met die. But when Elaine Stritch passed away in summer 2014, I was devastated. So in honor of her memory, I will spare you the adjectives, and just spit it out.
In Jay Malsky's love letter to Stritch, Malsky slaps on her self-imposed uniform: a pair of black tights, black kitten heels and a crisp white shirt, delivering a vulnerable performance in this air-tight solo show that includes sobriety, diabetes, Stephen Sondheim, Bombay Sapphire, orange juice, insulin, and brassy one-liners.
It's December 30th, 2001, the last performance of Stritch’s Tony-Award winning one-woman show, At Liberty. Malsky embodies the sheer power of Elaine Stritch, the unmatched queen in full command of the stage.
Then we skip ahead 10 years. Malsky merely grabs a small black purse, slips a hat on his head, and enters again as Stritch. Ten long years weigh heavy on her frail frame, her boney knees weak in the same black tights as she clings to the Steinway piano in her rehearsal room at the Carlyle Hotel with her loyal music director, Rob Bowman (Keith Rubin), accompanying her as she struggles to remember the lyrics of "Rose’s Turn" from Gypsy.
In the loft of the Spectrum Theatre, the audience sits in rows of cozy couches, as if we were in the privacy of our own homes. Malsky is so close you can see Elaine’s hands visibly shake, sweat pouring down her face. She is human. Malsky exposes the unforgiving ephemeral nature of the theater.
(Elaine Stritch Still Here plays at VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Sat 8/15 at 1; Mon 8/17 at 9:15; Fri 8/21 at 10:30; Mon 8/24 at 8; and Sat 8/29 at 2:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit facebook.com/elainestritchstillhere.)