By BRUCE DENNILL
My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy / Starring Michael Richard / Auto & General Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg
Based on the family and life experiences of American comedian Steve Solomon, this show is one of the longest-running of its kind in the US. Part of that longevity will have to do with the mildness of the narrative, which gently pokes fun at a number of the sort of themes that come up whenever families gather – health, relationships, food and work among them.
As such, it’s an excellent time of the year for a run of this production, with Thanksgiving just past and Hanukkah and Christmas to come meaning that the interactions Michael Richard (ably standing in for the show’s originator) describes or acts out on stage are top of mind in most audience member’s heads. You’ll come away from watching the piece armed with a number of snappy one-liners that you can adapt for your own use, and perhaps a broader perspective on where your weird relatives fit in on the scale of dysfunction.
There is an issue, though, in that as the production returns again and again, the material is not appreciably updated. It can’t be, really, as Solomon was writing about actual people and lived experiences, and those people – the ones who are still around, at any rate – have changed, as has Solomon himself. So the gags, while mostly funny enough, are very much of their time. This gives the piece a nostalgic feel for older audience members, but likely bemuses anyone of a similar age to Solomon’s kids or younger, as both the content of the jokes and their delivery style feels less edgy than they’re probably used to.
Richard does a fine job with the script he’s given – a warm, engaging presence with plenty of facility to create emotional range for his character and deliver the punchlines with textbook timing. And his natural gravitas anchors the story well, never allowing Solomon’s more farcical sensibilities to run away with things.