So That's Why I'm This Way
By Geary Danihy
Long Wharf Theatre ends its silly season with My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy, a one-act monologue written and performed by Steve Solomon, a rather chubby raconteur with a low-key delivery who uses his mixed heritage to good effect in a series of quite humorous reminiscences, character studies and asides about life, love, the battle of the sexes and the aging process.
Solomon, a self-confessed class clown with a knack for dialect, uses the framework of a visit to his latest therapist (a certain Dr. Assholi – make of that what you will), to comment on subjects that do not require you to be either Italian or Jewish to appreciate.
There’s the on-going problem with his parents, now retired to Florida, who have developed hearing problems. This, of course, makes long-distance conversations between the generations something akin to Abbott trying to explain to Costello just exactly who is on first. Miscommunication (plus just a touch of Alzheimer’s) is the order of the day, and leads to some very funny moments.
Then there’s the clash of cultures. How do you explain to an Italian girl how (if not why) to keep a kosher home? As Solomon sets out to delineate the rules, there is a growing sense of the absurd which culminates in a question about milk and eggs, and what might happen if one of the eggs hatches. “Keeping kosher” raises its rather humorous head again when Solomon’s wife decides she will keep a kosher home, which leads to several surreptitious burials of silverware in the dark of night.
Solomon’s somewhat avuncular persona is perfect for the type of material he has created. There is sarcasm, but it is not vicious; there are moments of frustrated confusion but they are not presented with the type of hysteria that, say, a Rodney Dangerfield used to assault his audience.
As directed by Andrew Rogow, the show has received several awards and was one of the longest running one-man shows on Broadway, and it’s easy to see why, for there’s something for everyone in the 90 minutes of jokes and caricatures. Just think back to your last expanded family gathering and you will understand what Solomon has to work with. There’s the know-it-all uncle who can’t seem to earn a dime, a “good sister” (who is also a smoker) who can do no wrong, and the aged couples whose tiffs and arguments have become fossilized rituals.
Perhaps the gathering was a solemn occasion, such as a funeral. Well, that just seems to exacerbate the craziness in family members, as Solomon suggests, as he deals with what to say at a funeral as you are looking at the corpse and what a husband might put on his wife’s headstone…and what she might put on his.
Solomon’s family may have driven him to therapy, but it has also given him material that provides the best therapy of all for the audience, and that is laughter, which essentially is non-stop from the moment Solomon opens his therapist’s door and walks on stage.
So, gather your friends and relatives (those you are still speaking to) and get down to Long Wharf. After watching Solomon you will exit the theater with less tension in your shoulders and a smile on your face, and that’s a nice way to head into the waning days of summer.
My Mother’s Italian… runs from Wednesday, Aug. 19, through Sunday, Aug. 30. For tickets or more information call 787-4283 or go to www.longwharf.org.
This review originally appeared in the Norwalk Citizen-News.