Performance: Mommy Queerest
Theater: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW
Metro Stops: Dupont Circle – Red line or U Street/Cardozo-Green line. Directions here.
Genre: Gay? Jewish? Seinfeld-ian? Definitely a comedy
Rating: 2/5 Starving Artists.
In the history of popular culture, there have been a number of things that I didn’t like, even though everyone else seemed to. Skip-it, Halo 2, 30 Rock, and LOLcats are just a few examples. So I have considered the possibility that I am not to be trusted as an authority on all things popular. It is with this caveat that I tell you how much I didn’t like Mommy Queerest, the newest show at Theater J. Much of the rest of the audience seemed to be really enjoying themselves while I twiddled my thumbs. The crickets in my head were befuddled by the laughter around me. So take my word for it, if you want.
Mommy Queerest is the new one-woman show by the humorist Judy Gold. This is the second time she’s brought a show to Theater J (the first was 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother). This production is a world première and it certainly feels pretty rough. The basic premise is that Judy has always felt that her life would make a great sitcom. She is a huge fan of the sitcoms of her childhood. All the hits of the 60s and 70s get a mention. And so she makes references to The Brady Bunch and The Waltons, with which she draws loose parallels with stories about her life. Judy want to make it very clear that she is a 6 foot tall, Jewish, lesbian, mother of two, and so she repeats this phrase a number of times, to diminishing humorous effect. The TV executives she parodies seem to think that these characteristics that would be fitting for a quirky neighbor on a sitcom, but wouldn’t not make for a great principal, and I’m inclined to agree (sorry Judy). I can only hear how her life was a little bit like Bewitched, or strangely similar to Gilligan’s Island so many times before things start to get repetitive. There were a few funny lines, but nothing memorable. The whole thing feels like a gimmicky standup routine; a boat with too many holes in it to safely carry us for an hour and fifteen minutes.
But then again, everyone else was laughing (or at least it felt like it). And these weren’t courtesy laughs. People seemed to legitimately enjoy it. The girl next to me said she loved it, and that Judy had basically described her childhood. Other than the tired clichés and stereotypes from the bottom of the comedy barrel, I didn’t identify strongly with her story. Comedy is an interesting beast. When performed well, a routine’s specificity is universal. More than once I’ve heard stories where Jewish comedians are told that their familial reminiscences are perfect descriptions of someone else’s Korean family. And I’ve heard this story told using any two ethnicities (which I guess goes to prove the point even further). But I couldn’t really find my life in Judy’s because hers felt like an amalgamation TV’s least funny stereotypes.
The whole thing left me with a feeling of simulated nostalgia. I got that she was reminiscing, but I wasn’t able to go there with her. And I did not think this was generational, as that girl next to me that I mentioned before was younger than me. So, the whole thing felt like C-rate material in an A-rate venue. Kinda disappointing.
But don’t take my word for it…. DC Theatre scene called it a warm and funny delight.