New York City Theater
"Twenty Five Questions for a Jewish Mother"
St. Luke's Theatre, Manhattan
Stand-up comic Judy Gold has her fans, judging by past awards as listed in the program notes. Her current show was nominated for a Drama Desk Award when it originally ran last year, and she has been twice nominated for The American Comedy Award’s “funniest female stand-up.”
But each of us defines humor differently, and, in this critic’s view, Gold’s material is not so much a comic routine as an intimate chat between women. Granted there are rare moments (as when Gold places a phone order with a sperm bank, as if she were ordering Chinese take-out) that she hits a comic high. But she rarely reaches that level, and certainly not in the portrait of her nagging, overwrought Jewish mother. That character is such a cliché, so predictable, that she elicits nothing more than a yawn.
Gold is at her best when she is earnestly describing a road not usually taken—her road. She is a Lesbian, a Conservative Jew, and a gutsy, outspoken critic of Bush. Moreover, she and her former partner each gave birth to a child, providing the two sons that rounded out their family. All of this is grist for the mill. The show is further enhanced by the project Gold created with writer Kate Moira Ryan. The two spent five years traveling about the country interviewing 50 Jewish mothers of different ages, occupations and backgrounds. It was the first time many had thought about their lives, given voice to their feelings. Gold tells it all like a friend sharing confidences—serious, thought-provoking--but rarely funny.
However, she is a gifted mimic, who effectively recreates the myriad of women. At such points, the show becomes strong and moving. But it is certainly a stretch to dub Gold as the “funniest female stand-up.”
-- Irene Backalenick
October 12, 2006