Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Made in Heaven


By Jay Bernzweig. Directed by Andrew Shaifer. At the Soho Playhouse

Let me break it down for you: Made In Heaven's premise is about conjoined twins joined at the (massive) penis are about to propose to their girlfriend when one of them comes out of the closet and begins seeing a man. As you might imagine, the play is more than a little divisive. Director Andrew Shaifer and his performers get high marks for their deft handling of complicated physical comedy and a punch(line) drunk script, but reviewers' opinions of Jay Bernzweig's writing range from exuberantly positive to Sam Theilman's sniffing dismissal of the play as not "dramatic literature". (PS: For an interview with Bernzweig, click here.)

TheaterMania A-
(Barbara & Scott Siegel) Made in Heaven is pointedly silly, but it has a lot of heart and four characters that are all rich in their comic potential. What's more, that comic potential is fully realized by some extremely zesty, even inspired, performances. Anfanger is comically adorable as the gay twin with a winsomely innocent yet comically exaggerated sexual desire. Collins is a wonderfully madcap actor who is out-and-out hilarious at physical comedy. Meanwhile, Madison gets to toss off her own fair share of comic lines with a ferocious quality, and Bondy plays his role with so much comic bravado that he almost steals the show.

NYPost B+
(Frank Scheck) The results are better than you'd expect. While Jay Bernzweig's comedy doesn't exactly inspire comparisons to Oscar Wilde, it's a genuinely funny farce that you'll only mildly disrespect yourself the next day for having liked...It's all much funnier than it should be, thanks to the often hilarious dialogue and the inspired physical comedy from Collins and Anfanger. Wearing a single pair of oversize pants as if they've been sharing them forever, the two are particularly riotous in the scene in which Benjie is forced to fling his drugged, unconscious brother around like a rag doll.

TalkinBroadway B-
(Matthew Murray) Trash theatre doesn’t get much trashier than Made in Heaven. But it doesn’t get much funnier, either. Jay Bernzweig’s play, which just opened at the SoHo Playhouse following a tryout at this summer’s Midtown International Theatre Festival, may be a one-joke evening, but both the playwright and his director, Andrew Shaifer, ensure that that joke is exploited for all it’s worth. And that proves enough - barely - to sustain over most of 90 minutes a premise that in most hands would grow tiresome after 10 minutes, tops.

Backstage D+
(Mark Peikert) Just when we've settled down to a mediocre slapstick comedy—Collins and Anfanger work their three-legged jeans as hard as they can—Bernzweig veers into serious territory as the grand sexual experiment his characters have undertaken falls apart around them. Nothing that precedes the final scene has prepared us for this sudden about-face into seriousness, and so the melancholy of the play's end feels forced and unearned. Benjie and Max deserve better than the self-obsessed Jessica and the selfish and cruel Gilbert. And the actors deserve better than a script that falters so badly in the clinch.

Variety D
(Sam Thielman) Max and Benjie are conjoined twins. Max is straight. Benjie is gay. The two share a penis. What could go right? Not a lot, as it turns out. Jay Bernzweig's televisual comedy Made in Heaven is notable more for the performances of thesps Alex Anfanger (Benjie) and Matthew Bondy (his paramour, Gilbert) than it is for its contribution to dramatic literature. Helmer Andrew Shaifer wrings a lot of laughs from the play's reheated "Will and Grace"-style gags, but ultimately, Bernzweig's biggest innovation is his surprisingly bleak denouement, which totally annuls the rest of the mildly entertaining enterprise.

TM A- 12; NYP B+ 11; TB B- 9; BS D+ 5; V D 4; TOTAL: 41/5=8.2 C+

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