How to Screw Up Your Life!
Who would have thought that the Dairy Center for the Arts' "Theatre Made In Boulder" initiative would finally bring a comedy club feel to this high tech, higher education, highest medication enclave? If we haven't already learned that a sense of humor is the most important tool in life's journey, we will certainly get there during the course of this punchy, mad-cap ride through life's mine field of temptations, detours, and fatal attractions—all peppered with catchy tunes, a little soft shoe, and familial angst.
Ray (Ami Dayan) and Luna Johnson (Tammy L. Meneghini) are actors. Worse yet, they're married. And even worse, they have kids: Nick (Eddy Jordan) and Honey (Elizabeth A. Williamson). Obviously, Ray and Luna are eminently well-qualified to warn us about the sure-fire ways to screw up our lives.
|(L to R) Ami Dayan, Eddy Jordan,|
Elizabeth A. Williamson, and Tammy L. Meneghini
But before the lights come up on a piano, a park bench, a floor mic for some intermittent stand-up, and the show logo, there is some required paperwork to qualify us for this adventure. First, we must sign a Waiver that says, somewhere amongst the gobbledegook, that we will not sue regarding our experience. Perhaps the lesson here is that litigation is a sure way to screw up one's life. The second form is a list of life choices by which to tally the ways we have screwed up our existence:
They could have made things easy for me by putting "All of the above" at the end of the list, instead of forcing me to check every box, but the ensemble seemed to appreciate my effort by offering me a straight-jacket, which made it very difficult to take notes; so, I'm relying on my memory here.
|Dysfunction? What dysfunction?|
Since my hands were tied, when the emcee/stand-up comic (Jordan), asked us to respond to the prompts projected on a large screen (as the show is being taped, just like we were a TV audience for a Comedy Central special), I couldn't applaud, so I just yelled out. As I was already in a straight-jacket, this only confirmed to those sitting around me what my checklist had indicated to the ensemble—that I had screwed up my life in a big way.
And then there was my maniacal laughter that accompanied some of the musical numbers, particulary Meneghini's satirical send-ups, which give us an inkling of the genesis of Ray and Luna's dysfunctional relationships with Nick and Honey. As the kids explain, Ray and Luna's marriage is one part Ricky and Lucy, one part Brad and Angelina, and one part Burton and Taylor. One of the conflicts is that Luna is making more money than Ray, which is a nice segue to the fertile topic of glass ceilings and the male ego. Ray and Luna have been married and divorced a few times, and we are passengers on their emotional rollercoaster, terrified and laughing as the bottom drops out and we accelerate down the steep dives and through the epicenters of multiple g-force turns. Dayan is a charming straight man to Meneghini's Lucy-like goofiness. She even does a riff on the famous vegameatavitamin routine. The kicker on the mélange of marriage mishaps is Williamson's ascerbic retorts and eye rolls during Honey's testy tête-à-têtes with Luna, which stir visions of Mama Rose from Gypsy, or perhaps Joan Crawford, as archetypal stage mother monsters.
|The sign says it all.|
Scott Martin, who wrote the title song, performs some spiffy arrangements, on the 88s, of a panoply of eclectic covers borrowed for their themes, including "Many Rivers to Cross" (Jimmy Cliff), Rocky Mountain High (John Denver and Mike Taylor), "Your're Nobody till Somebody Loves You" (Russ Morgan, Larry Stock, and James Cavanaugh), "Money (That's What I Want)" (Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford), and more.
We got a kick out of Jordan's stand-up on psychotherapy, though I was a bit uncomfortable with other audience members sneaking insinuating looks at me during this examination of neurosis and psychosis. Jordan's throw-back of Durante doing "The Piano Has Been Drinking (not Me)," by Tom Waits, brought sweet memories of one of my favorite childhood comedians, which calmed me down. Even the ensemble noticed this, and they released me from my bonds, which freed me up to write this.
The Dairy Arts Center, Goddess Here Productions, and Maya Productions's presentation of How to Screw Up Your Life!, by Ami Dayan, runs through February 10th. For tickets: https://tickets.thedairy.org.