All Things Entertaining and Cultural
Anyone whose elderly parents carry mobile telephones is bound to see the reality and humor every time comedian and playwright Steve Solomon attempts to carry on a conversation with his Mom and Dad in his one-man show, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m Still in Therapy, which runs at the Bristol Riverside Theatre through Oct. 6
Solomon is deft at taking the familiar and making it funny. His humor seizes on the exact situations and irritations you recognize as you deal with your family and the world in general. His material is not cerebral and doesn’t seek to be incisive or insightful. It does, however, lead to a barrage of laughs that make you nod in agreement as you realize how well Solomon knows the world and how much comedy he ekes from everyday existence.
His My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish shows have become a franchise that keeps Solomon and other actors he hires quite busy throughout the year. The show he is doing in Bristol is a new routine Solomon shrewdly crafted to keep his fans entertained without relying on jokes they have already heard. In addition to this show, and the original, which has played in the Philadelphia area and Bristol, Solomon has a holiday rendition, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m Home for the Holidays, he will bring to New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse from Nov. 6 to 17.
Jokes are Solomon’s meat. His dual ethnicity is a premise to do a series of stories, gags, and one-liners that are reminiscent of the Catskill routines Georgie Jessel, Milton Berle, and other comics made popular and famous. Like them, Solomon is a “tummeler,” one who moves quickly from one punch line to the next and gives his audience no time to stop laughing or to relax while waiting to hear the next set-up. His aged hard-of-hearing parents and chain smoking asthmatic sister figure prominently in this schtick as do his wife, children, and you, if you’re not careful. (If Solomon asks the audience a question and gets no response, he repeats it in the speech pattern of a deaf person and pretends he is also signing it in ASL. It may not be the most politically correct thing to do, but comedy is not and should not be politically correct, and Solomon is funny when he uses the routine, though it is funnier the first time than the second.)
Any day-to-day event can be the source of Solomon’s jokes, from trying to take driving directions from his father, who drives by landmarks rather than street names or route numbers, to sharing Florida highways with men and women of his parents’ vintage. His jokes are middle-of the-road and surefire. They address the forty million irritations most of us put up with on a daily basis, from the amount of time one has to wait in a line at Costco to dealing with relatives’ quirks. Solomon opts for speed over depth, and the choice suits him. He is successful at keeping the audience entertained and building a following because his material is so accessible and reliable. He also has a good ear for dialects and can make just about any sound effect you can do with vocal cords and a microphone, especially if gas is involved. (What you do expect? Solomon is Italian and Jewish. Just like guilt, gas comes with the territory.)
As with Didn’t Your Father Have This Talk With You? at Act II Playhouse, My Mother’s Italian…. is more of a comic presentation than it is a play. Solomon has prospered by taking his shows to theaters as well as concert halls, and I have no cavil with their being billed as theater, but they could just as well be performed in a nightclub or comedy venue as a stand-up act. Luckily, to keep his show going for more than 90 minutes, two acts of about 45 minutes separated by an intermission, Solomon has to have lots and lots of jokes and bits as his disposal. He does, and I’m sure just day-to-day living and observing human foibles provide constant fodder for new material and subsequent shows. My favorite joke is about a lecture that Solomon claims to be driving to attend at 2:30 in the morning. I now tell that joke, which warns you that if you think you hear something you already know in Solomon’s patter, it’s probably because one of the thousands who have seen his shows has repeated it to you. A bit that involves a letter Solomon’s father allegedly wrote is the one instance when his script does not work.
My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m Still in Therapy runs through Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe Street, in Bristol, Pa. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $51 to $40 with a deep discount for students with I.D. or children (the latter of which might have trouble understanding everything in the show, though little if anything is blue). They can be ordered by calling 215-785-0100 or going online to www.brtstage.org