Eddie Izzard began his American tour, “Stripped”, at Boston's Orpheum Theater, April 28 - 30, 2008 Orpheum Theater 1 Hamilton Place, Boston, MA 02108
Intelligent, rakish humor that doesn’t rely on bodily functions, bathroom activities, or saturated sexual innuendo is hard to come by in America. Which is exactly why an Eddie Izzard show is so refreshing. When he walks onto the stage and gets around to saying. “Tonight, we’re going to talk about… EVERYTHING!” he means it. All 4 billion years of the earth's history.
The next two hours were spent with Izzard cobbling together an oddball pastiche of comedy, history, and general clowning around. Wrap culture, language, and religion in tinfoil, set it in the microwave, and you have an Eddie Izzard show.
Watch Izzard mime about God using a crème brulee torch to create the earth or boil down the Ten Commandments to its essentials. Marvel at his downright courage to say. “Y’know, all we need is one commandment: Be kind to one another.” There is slight pause while he makes sure you registered that. Then a sharp left turn in which he acts out Moses trying to hold back the sea, or dinosaurs with little hands singing from hymnals in church, or Darwin's theory of evolution - "Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, you!"
Eddie Izzard is an updated Monty Python, crossed with Steve Martin and Richard Pryor. The English actor has a general idea of what he’s driving at but is so busy looking out the window that he gets gloriously lost amongst the trees along the way. A conversation about the existence of God might be interrupted by whipping out his iPhone to look up the definition of soup - which might been on the menu of the Jesus's Last Supper, “It’s all here on Wikipedia, you know.” And we do.
Using part of that detour as a running joke for the rest of the night, he gets a nearly Pavlovian response of laughter when he’ll pause and utter, “Soup!”
This is the first stop of his three-month American tour of “Stripped”. By the end of the tour he’ll have shaped and somewhat tamed the show into what will become his second HBO special. The first, “Dress to Kill” (in which the cross-dressing comedian sports lipstick and black pumps), put his name on the map in 1999 and won him two Emmy Awards.
Izzard plays dodge ball with the ideas that streak into his brain. His stream of consciousness delivery is a three ring circus in which he is the daring young man on the flying trapeze, the tightrope walker, and one of the clowns squeezing out of the tiny car all at the same time. That’s a nearly death defying trick for a comedian working without a net on new material.
He took dozens of detours on his 4 billion year history tour about Everything. Aside from a few well-timed F words, the show was muscled along on brain cells, not testosterone. You just don’t realize how starved you are for stimulating comedy until you’ve heard this man in concert.
Youtube has bunches of Izzard's stuff from "Dress to Kill"
Whizzin’ Musical by Ryan Landry and Billy Hough Directed by Ryan Landry and Rick Park Set, Windsor Newton, Costumes, Scott Martino Presented by the Gold Dust Ophans At Machine, through May 24, Tickets $28, 866-811-4111 or theatermania.com Running time 2 hrs 15 min including fifteen minute intermission
It’s not that often you can see a true-blue campy drag show in Beantown. OK, the black walled basement of Machine on way upper Boylston Street is not exactly the Theater District. And Whizzin’, with book and lyrics by Ryan Landry and Billy Hough, is not a family musical. It’s the raunchy, over the top, un-self-conscious fun that a gay-themed production should be.
When the 6’2” black-clad, tattooed bouncer greeted me at the entrance to Machine last night with a “Hi, Honey,” I knew I wasn’t in Kansas any more.
The plot strays from the original Wizard of Oz but only purists, who are not likely to have this venue bookmarked in their Blackberries, might object. Social satire is often embedded in gay theater productions and Whizzin’ aims its share at cell phone users, Internet pornsters, and botox and plastic surgery addicts. Whizzin’ also refers to Dorothy’s bed-wetting problem.
Several inspired theater effects had the audience roaring with laughter. The imaginative props that cost no more than a collection of tin foil, coat hangers, bits of muslin, and foam rubber were gems. The gray fabric tornado might have cost ten bucks and had the audience in a grand stitch. The costumes were hilariously outlandish.
The theater is nothing more than about a hundred folding metal chairs spread out on a black cement dance floor facing a makeshift stage at one end of the sprawling Machine’s basement. The posters on the bathroom walls leave no doubt as to the proclivities of the patrons.
With impeccable timing, stage presence, and facial expressions, Olive Another’s Glinda delightfully dominated every scene in which she (he?…cripes what’s a reviewer to do about personal pronouns here?) appeared. Most of the other actors had their lines gobbled up when they ran them over audience laughter.
Megan Ludlow’s Dorothy had a fine show girl (and she is a girl) singing voice. Her re-imagined version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was heartfelt and moving. Ryan Landry as the Wicked Witch squeezed every syllable from his rakish delivery.
As a matter of fact the whole production was full of heart and, dare I say it, gaiety.
Enthusiasm often trumped talent but the acting is so exuberant that it doesn’t seem matter. Like the Lion’s derriere, the production sagged with its own weight from time to time and could use a little kitch-o-suction. But if you want to sit amongst a very mixed crowd and listen to a collection of ballads and bodacious rocker song and dance routines, call the Gold Dust Orphans Company. Their “machine’ is running until May 24th.
“What the heck is that buzzing sound in there,” I thought to myself as I started pulling clothes from the washing machine. “And what's that under my work pants? That black thing...that's bleeping. It can’t be a cell phone. Cell phones don’t belong in washing machines.“
For a second, reality does not compute. Cell phones, as any idiot knows, don’t belong under water so it can’t be a cell phone. My mind refuses the data. But it IS a cell phone. MY cell phone.
I kept staring, hoping that if I looked long enough, the vagrant phone would disappear. Or at least stop that low moaning bleeeeping. Neither happened.
There are many ways to feel stupid. Emergency Room stupid, Relationship stupid, Road Rage stupid. And now Cell Phone stupid.
More embarrassingly stupid than your cell phone ringing while you're in the theater, or ringing in the crucial first three minutes of a blind date. Worse than misplacing your cell phone or leaving it under your napkin in the restaurant. You may sheepishly recover from such faux pas.
It is not possible to say to your cell phone, “Gee, sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you in the pocket of my work pants when I threw them into the Maytag, I'll make it up to you.”
You just stand over the white porcelain tub staring at the poor bleating piece of technology that has become more important to you than your opposable thumb. How the hell could you have been so careless?
In addition to the indignity of having to spend a pile of dough to replace something you already own, are you going to admit why you need to purchase a new cell phone? You know that in time this is going to be an amusing story you can serve up, with the help of two glasses of Shiraz, at some chatty cocktail party believing it will trump all comers.
But at this very moment, staring at the bubbly glass eye of your phone, you feel as dumb as you've felt in a long time.