Los Angeles Theater Review: THE JUDY SHOW: MY LIFE AS A SITCOM (Geffen Playhouse in Westwood)

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by Tom Chaits on July 9, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

IT IS WHAT IT IS

Set your “expectation meter” in the mid-range and you will probably enjoy The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom starring comedienne Judy Gold. However, if you enter the theater high on anticipation expecting to be wowed you will more than likely be disappointed. The bottom line is that “it is what it is.” What it “is” is a perfectly fine, pleasant, grin-inducing autobiographical stand-up act with above average Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema LA review of “The Judy Show” – Geffen Playhouse in Westwoodproduction values. What it “isn’t” is a one-woman show packed with surprising, inspiring and revealing insight.

Ms. Gold, a 6’3” Jewish lesbian mother of two (as she repeatedly refers to herself), is no stranger to the world of stand-up comedy. She’s been making a living from it for decades and it shows. She is extremely comfortable on stage and knows how to play to an audience. Her winning and relaxed persona instills an immediate comfort level and invites the viewer to sit back and take it all in. Interspersed amongst the comedy she warbles short musical renditions of familiar and nostalgic sit-com theme songs, some played on a piano and some sung to pre-recorded instrumental tracks to emphasize her point.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema LA review of “The Judy Show” – Geffen Playhouse in WestwoodAnd what is the point? The point is that she, not unlike most young (and old) TV viewers, obtained much of her world view by watching sitcoms. The Brady Bunch showed the melding of two families into one. Maude had an abortion. One Day at a Time showed a single mother making a go at it. Good Times showed a family from the projects that proved you didn’t need money to have love. The Mary Tyler Moore Show gave single working women a hero to look up to. If television truly reflected society wasn’t it time for a sit-com built around a lesbian household? Ms. Gold thought so. After multiple pitches to various inept network executives over a number of years she came up empty handed. Perhaps she was just ahead of her time. On today’s boob-tube landscape it is of course a mute subject. Gay families are regularly beamed into our living rooms on shows like Modern Family and The New Normal. ABC Family’s The Fosters (executive produced by Jennifer Lopez) takes the two mom family to new heights by featuring an interracial lesbian couple raising both foster and biological children.

The problem is that Ms. Gold’s journey is not really all that extraordinary (the script is by Gold with Kate Moira Ryan). In fact, as relayed, it’s quite ordinary. Maybe that’s the message: See? We all really are alike. While this makes it easily relatable for the audience, it doesn’t provide anything deeper than a cursory exploration of her life. It’s all superficiality with no substance. Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema LA review of “The Judy Show” – Geffen Playhouse in WestwoodThat doesn’t mean it’s not funny because it is. Anyone who has a mother (Jewish or otherwise), kids, or has been in any sort of relationship will find plenty to relate to and smile about. Entertaining it is. Earthshattering it’s not.

As directed by Amanda Charlton, the production itself is quite a polished presentation. The scenic and projection design by Andrew Boyce is both homey and high-tech at the same time. Images of classic sit-coms paper the walls. Seven large screen monitors are used to reinforce the action with shots and clips from the shows as well pictures of Ms. Gold over the course of her career. Oddly, she is virtually unrecognizable in the pictures. You can’t help scanning back and forth from her face in the picture to her face on the stage and scratching your head. It’s a real puzzlement. Down stage left is a piano which reminds you of the one played by Archie and Edith on All in the Family. Darren Rezowalli’s lighting serves the piece well.

Perhaps a comment I overheard from one of the theatergoers upon exiting sums the 80 minute experience up perfectly. She said, “That was nice.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement but certainly better than a poke in the eye.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema LA review of “The Judy Show” – Geffen Playhouse in Westwood

photos by Michael Lamont

The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom
Geffen Playhouse in Westwood
scheduled to end on July 28, 2013
EXTENDED to August 18, 2013
for tickets, call 310-208-5454 or visit http://www.geffenplayhouse.com

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