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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
It would not be unreasonable to expect some big chuckles in a play entitled The Joke and described as being about two Brooklyn comedians, "Doug the Mug " and "Steady Eddie" who plied their brand of humor at the time when a lot of their compatriots were finding larger audiences on TV. With comedians known to have their dark side when not performing, and the advance publicity hinting that one of the partners moved in the direction of Lenny Bruce's pitch-black realism, it was pretty much a given that this wouldn't be a nonstop barrel of laughs. But not to have a single funny joke and have just about every routine fall flatter than the perennial pancake — give me a break. The jokes in Sam Marks' sloppily constructed new play are unredeemably unfunny and a disservice to the comedians who for decades made the Catskill mountains come alive with the sound of laughter.
To be fair, Jordan Gelber as the alcoholic fat guy and Thomas Sadoski, as the slick, fame obsessed Eddie, give their all to the thankless, humorless routines Marks has given them. Studio Dante's co-artistic director, Victoria Imperiole, has supplied suitably schlumpy (for Doug) and snazzy (for Eddie) outfits -- including a dress for Doug when he takes on the role of his wife Lola who never actually appears but who figures prominently in yet another ugly bit of subtext in the men's anger and misery drenched friendship. Imperiole has also done a nice job of cluttering up the back stage dressing room where Doug and Eddie's off-stage relationship plays out with photos and posters of Jack Paar, Marilyn Monroe and other personalities far more famous than either man will ever be.
Unfortunately, while the actors and Ms. Imperiole do their best to make something of this dreary retelling of the familiar story of comedy partners whose stage insult routines end up translating into a dysfunctional off-stage relationship, director Sam Gold's awkward and tedious direction only adds to its problems. While he heeds the playwright's stage direction to avoid blackouts—the constant (and at times confusing) switches from their doing their on stage shtick to their acrimonious off stage interaction by means of opening and closing a red curtain end up feeling exactly like blackouts. As for Marks' further directions to "play this for the edge and speed of a joke" . . .all I can say, what edge? what speed? This is a decidedly slow-motion 85 minutes that ends, like Doug's pretend news story about two comedians found dead in the Catskills. Why? You guessed it. No laughs and simply not enough interest or sympathy aroused for these sadsack characters. Gelber and Sadoski deserve better.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
The Playbill Broadway YearBook
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide