Aidan O'Shea as Maman in My Big Thick Schtick.
BOTTOM LINE: With eight plays, a short film about a gay otter, a musical number and a performance-art-like-dance moment, there is truly something for everyone.
Singing drag queens, bitchy sorority sisters and dead Hollywood divas of days gone by are all things that one would rightly expect from a show called My Big, Thick Schtick. For those of you into such things, you won't be disappointed. Written by our Theatre is Easy colleague Joseph Samuel Wright, Schtick contains all of the aforementioned delights as well as a gay otter, some scattered dancing and even a back flip or two.
The show's press release bills it as "a collection of comedic shorts" but despite the clear push to highlight the comedic edge of the show, it is at it's most captivating in its moments of sincerity. However there is plenty of humor to be had in this collection of eight short gay-themed, assorted variety acts.
Wright is a talented writer and has been gifted with a cast that very well may have Red Bull running through their veins. The Bridge Theater's small space is saturated with the energy and presence of the cast through the duration of the show.
Despite the obvious humor, I found some of the comedy skits a bit tedious. One in particular in which Vivian Lee, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis are forced to spend their after-life together in a room felt particularly uninspired and over the top to me, but to be perfectly honest, out-and-out camp is not my thing. Thought-provoking and communicative theater is my thing, however, and there are a few moments of that in Schtick also.
The pinnacle of Wright's writing comes in a second act skit called "Mommy Drinkest." Aidan O'Shea shows off some truly colossal emotional range playing a man whose husband has lost interest in him and whose whole life now revolves around vodka and the couple's now grown adopted daughter. The daughter, played by the winning and sincere Kathleen Choe, has a tumultuous love hate relationship with the man she refers to as "Maman." Wright does such a beautiful job of working past the sexuality and gender of the characters of the piece and touching directly upon familial relationships, which as this piece illustrates, are just as painful, inspiring and fucked up, regardless of what the identity of the people involved happens to be. I was left wanting more and would be first in line if Wright ever chose to work this into a full length piece.
Unfortunately, I felt the design and direction of the show did little to complement any of its many assets. I wasn't feeling the theater's paint job: an odd drab mustard yellow, reminiscent of a 1970s suburban basement. The direction, by Samantha Schechtman, leans towards constantly intense, and particularly in the comedic scenes, there is much aimless mulling about.
That aside, there is certainly an audience for Schtick. All eight plays should go a good way towards entertaining anyone who enjoys a good variety show and over-the-top humor.
(My Big, Thick Schtick plays at The Bridge Theater, 244 West 54th Street through July 24, 2010. Performances are Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $10.00 and are available at smarttix.com.)