REVIEW: Loony clan's tales offer comfy fun

March 25, 2011 

  • 'My Mother's Italian …'

    RATING: ½
    WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
    RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, including an intermission
    WHEN: 2 and 8 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday
    TICKETS: $29-$49
    INFORMATION: 338-2100 or www.galloarts.org

    Star Guide

    Excellent Fair
    Good Poor

— Generations of comedians have made people laugh with stories about their wacky families.

Steve Solomon follows in their well-trod footsteps with his one-man show "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm in Therapy," playing today and Sunday at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

He delivers his material with an exasperated expression that conveys that he is the only sane person in a clan of loony toons. Listening to his jokes is like eating macaroni and cheese — it's familiar and comfortable, but not particularly exciting. You get the sense that even Solomon is growing tired with continually covering the same ground.

The show is set in the waiting room of a therapist's office, where Solomon passes the time by recalling family memories. In two acts, he covers his childhood in Brooklyn, early experiences with sex, marriage, divorce, two children, career as an educator and entry into show business.

He talks about attending church and Hebrew school, and learning the main highlights of every Jewish holiday: "They tried to kill us, God saved us, let's eat."

The best parts of the show are the vivid descriptions of his relatives, including his hard-of-hearing parents, Russian grandmother and chain-smoking sister. He does impressions of each, using different voices and accents. You feel as if you know them by the end.

It's obvious he has a lot of affection for clan members despite their quirks.

"The whole family is like a Snickers bar," he said. "Sweet but nuts."

Less enjoyable are his constant digs at body parts and bodily noises. A running theme through the show is jokes about relatives and pets that cough excessively. The first few are funny, but by the end, the humor begins to wear thin.

Solomon has been performing the show for 10 years around the country, including off-Broadway. He has even created two more productions based on the same idea — "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm Still in Therapy" and "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm Home for the Holiday."

While his material lacks originality, his show has proven appeal.

For more on Modesto area arts, visit www.twitter.com/milleganrenner and watch Bee Scene on video at videos.modbee.com.

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