By: Paulanne Simmons
Monica Piper is a very funny woman. She comes by her skills naturally. Her father, was a touring comic before he decided to settle down to raise a family, and even her more sedate mother knew how to tell a dirty joke.
Monica Piper is also Jewish, so much of her humor revolves around typical Jewish themes, family, food, bad luck … and being Jewish (which is a combination of family, food and bad luck). And she’s also a good storyteller.
Piper’s solo show, Not That Jewish, directed by Mark Waldrop, combines all her very evident skills. Much of the show is about her journey from a little girl in a proudly but not very Jewish family to a young lady searching for love among blond, blue-eyed men. This little girl also became an English teacher until she realized she had inherited both her father’s sense of humor and his desire to perform, and she had to go where her destiny led her.
A good deal of Piper’s story is devoted to her son, a young man she adopted and despite teenage rebellion and a green Mohawk, managed to turn into a Jew and a mensch. Her adventures as a single mother are funny, until her story takes a darker turn when Piper relates her struggle with breast cancer.
There’s plenty of pathos in the show, but Piper is at her best when she’s telling jokes. She’s adept with the one-liners and also knows how to stretch out a tale until she sails in for the punchline. At times we suspect there may be a touch more fiction than truth in these tales, especially the one about Mickey Mantle. But then again, who know? And who cares?
It cannot be denied that some of Piper’s act falls into schtick, and it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But this is a cup of tea that has plenty of sugar, a touch of lemon and a nice aftertaste.
Not That Jewish is at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., 212-239-6200, newworldstages.com. Open run.
Photos: Carol Rosegg