The new Broadway show Relatively Speaking is about the relatives -- your relatives. Hence, the title. The three one-act comedies are penned by Woody Allen, Second City alumna Elaine May, and Ethan Coen of the moviemaking Coen Brothers.
It's a laugh riot. We laugh so hard because we know these relatives. They are ours. We see them in our own families. From the unrecognizable Marlo Thomas of the very long, blonde hair in May's George is Dead (and yes, I had a George in my life), to Woody Allen's Honeymoon Motel with its round-shaped bed just like my late Grandma Newman's.
Grandma Newman insisted on a round bed for her married life after escaping from growing up in Hell's Kitchen. That round bed was not so comfortable. I know because it ended up in the guest bedroom, and I slept on it. Allen's couple, Steve Guttenberg and Ari Graynor, didn't spend too much time on their honeymoon round bed either.
One of the funniest lines from Coen's Talking Cure, was a joke about a waiter and a group of Jewish mothers dining out. "Is anything all right?," he asks as he passes by their table. Coen's play also has a mental patient played by Nurse Jackie's Danny Hoch asking his shrink Jason Kravits, "What if I were really the doctor and you were the mental patient?"
Woody Allen then borrows Coen's shrink Jason Kravits for his Starlite Motel where Kravits is equally ineffective in his counseling. Then Coen's mental patient Danny Hoch "disguised" as a pizza delivery guy in Allen's Honeymoon Motel, ends up as the voice of reason, straightening out all the honeymoon relatives. As the deus ex machina, he arrives at the motel just in time as shrink Kravits idly watches. So Hoch's earlier query, what if the mental patient were the doctor, ends up not being so far-fetched after all.
If this seems confusing, just know that the three one-acts end with pizzaman Hoch's exclaiming, "Hard Cheese!" No doubt a shoutout to our Wisconsin neighbors to the north, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, and their fans who proudly sport huge plastic cheesehead hats in the shape of triangular cheese slices. Especially after their Super Bowl win. Try to get in and out of a car with one of those on your noggin.
Some of the other faces you'll recognize in this ensemble cast include Murphy Brown's Grant Shaud, and Perfect Strangers' Mark Linn-Baker, a former Chicagoan whom I discovered once did Kellogg's Nutri-Grain commercials. My brother Jeff works for Kellogg's in Battle Creek, Michigan. Now I'll probably have to spring for tickets to take him and his family.
So, if you want to take your mind off the economy and perhaps find your own six degrees of separation -- and you will -- get thee to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on West 47th Street between Broadway & 8th. Previews began September 20th. The play officially opens October 20th which coincidentally is my dad's birthday. And I can hear him laughing all the way from heaven above.