Theatre critic Irene Backalenick covers theatre for national and regional publications. She has a Ph.D.in theatre criticism from City University Graduate Center. Her book "East Side Story--Ten Years with the Jewish Repertory Theatre" (based on her doctoral thesis) won a first-place national book award in history. Other awards in journalism and theatre criticism include a New York Times Publishers Award (received while writing for The New York Times). Her professional organizations include the American Theatre Critics Association, Association for Jewish Theatre, Outer Critics Circle (on the executive board), Drama Desk, Actors Equity Derwent Committee, and the Connecticut Critics Circle e-mail: email@example.com Web : www.nytheaterscene.com
Some day, if my dream were to come true, the world would be populated by a people of many blends , perhaps all café au lait in color, and all humanist in outlook. All past histories and present faiths would be respected, and people would easily cross borders without visas. Intermarriages within many cultures would add color, but not hostility, to relationships, tribes, neighborhoods, nations.
If such a global community ever came to pass, it would have people such as Steve Solomon, star of “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy!” Child of a mixed alliance, Solomon joyously shares his two disparate legacies with his audiences. He treats the differences in his background with warmth, affection and humor.
Here is one more one-man show, one more biography, one more stand-up act. The woods are full of such shows. But what makes performer Solomon (a chubby, balding little man) unique is his endearing quality. While his routine does not have the satirical bite of the current top comedy work, its sweetness compensates. He radiates a gentle humor, and even though he targets his family (both the Italian and Jewish sides), he does so with affection. “My mom,” he says, “is a beautiful blend of Gina Lollobrigida and Danny De Vito.”
Moreover, Solomon has an uncanny gift for mimicry. A raft of characters come alive on stage, with accents ranging far beyond his Italian-Jewish-Brooklyn milieu. And his sense of timing, like that of any good comic, is right on. His show, which has played around the country, is now enjoying a 12-week run off-Broadway at the Little Shubert Theatre. For Solomon, it is something of a homecoming, having grown up in Brooklyn.
Much of the Solomon material appears to be true. His parents met in Italy, where his father was stationed as a soldier at the close of World War II. As Solomon describes it, they would marry, go on to a long embattled relationship, but one complete with marvelous meals and many relatives. Many of his anecdotes take place in the kitchen, and, not surprisingly, Solomon’s cookbook (the first half Italian, the second half Jewish recipes), which he compiled with partner Jane Evers, will shortly be offered for sale.
While some of Solomon’s jokes have a familiar ring, others are uniquely his. Too many of the jokes are scatological, but he manages to stay within the bounds of good taste. As a child, for example, querying his grandmother for sex information, “Grandma, what are genitals?” The answer: “… people who are not Jewish.” And the throwaway lines: “I used to be indecisive…now I’m not so sure.”
In any event, he is such a likeable guy, that his patter, old or new, is welcomed by his audience. In short order, every one becomes friends. Steve Solomon is a welcome addition to the world of stand-up Jewish comedians and one-man shows.
Read additional reviews by Irene Backalenick
Solo Performance Online Catalogue
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