LA Theater Review: SANDRA BERNHARD: I LOVE BEING ME, DON’T YOU? (at the REDCAT)

by Tony Frankel on August 17, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for LA Theater Review: SANDRA BERNHARD: I LOVE BEING ME, DON’T YOU? (at the REDCAT)

I HAD A GAY OLD TIME

A letter to Sandra Bernhard:

Dear Sandy:

Oh my God, it thrilled me to no end when I was assigned to review your latest show at REDCAT: Sandra Bernhard: I Love Being Me, Don’t You? Ever since you took off your clothes and sang, all feline-like, to a tied-up Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy, I’ve been a huge fan. Can you believe that was over 30 years ago, girl? Right? I mean, I haven’t really followed your career as closely as other gay guys…oops, I mean, your big, gay following, but it’s super-cool that you played a lesbian on Roseanne and you’re, like, really out of the closet in real life. I know you hung out with Madonna, but are you friends with Ellen? I think she’s a little too nice…I like my lesbians edgy – as long as they don’t get in my face…then I get really, really, really scared.

Girlfriend, I could totally relate to your quip, “In the entertainment capital of the world, people are starving for entertainment.” Sometimes it’s tough to define exactly what you do; I mean, your act is just an extension of who you are: part Vegas lounge singer, part cynical and filthy broad, part wry and droll commentator on our crass culture, part hippie, part comedienne…no matter how one puts it, you are definitely entertaining.

I’m way envious that you can get away with spouting off some truly insulting ruminations about Show Business, because your tongue-in-cheek delivery keeps you from sounding insulting. You decry our overexposure to the media, yet you exposed me to more useless media trivia than I ever needed to know. You mention some chick who is in a magazine ad, asking us, “Who is this person?” – then you bring up other people who I’m supposed to know, but I have no idea who you’re talking about, like those people in the Royal Wedding Party (now I’m sorry that I missed that on TV; I hear the hats were fabulous). Speaking of which, you denigrate TV, yet you must watch a lot of it to know what to denigrate. Weird, right? Even though you remain on the outskirts of Hollywood, you made me feel like I was one of your inner circle. (I’m curious, by the way…you said that Liza Minnelli was not allowed to smoke in your house, but did you let her at least do a line of coke?)

Sandra Bernhard: I Love Being Me, Don't You?Listen, I have to apologize for my theatre-going companion, but I told him you were sort of like a lounge singer. So when he cringed during your opening number, I suspect that he was expecting something different than your normal kooky vibrato and occasionally slightly pitchy upper notes. Plus he said that he couldn’t understand some of the lyrics when you did that fun/rocking/screechy thing you do. Personally, I loved the way you sang that 1973 Eurovision winner and hit “Eres tú”: I can finally understand the words…and they’re in Spanish! Your voice is reminiscent of those folk-y lesbian singers on the Olivia label – and your piano player Carla Pattulo also had that 70s sound in her accompaniment: very simple and strong (ask her, for me, if she’d like to go camping sometime, wouldja?).

Anyway, my companion eventually warmed up to you, basically because you made him laugh. Don’t worry, Sandy, he did the same thing to me when we first met. Now he lives with me! Uh-oh…um…I’m not gay, but my boyfriend is! Wait, he just told me to tell you that he thinks you’re a super cool singer. It’s a good thing he did, or he would have ended up in the dog house…regardless of how much he would have enjoyed that.

Wow, would you listen to me? Gab, gab, gab. But I can’t help it. Watching you is just like being in your living room; you’re, like, just having a ball. You’re the modern hostess-with-the-mostess – a Sapphic Perle Mesta who is sharing cocktails and laughter (although I sorely needed a cocktail watching your show – maybe a little intermission next time so that we could cruise…I mean work…I mean drink…I mean chat with all those cute audience members who adore you so!)

It was particularly neat-o when, after 90 minutes, you disappeared backstage while your drummer Alex Stickles had a field day on those skins (and you’re right, he does kind of look like a lesbian). Then you returned in that “What Becomes a Legend Most?” outfit – a dress that looked like a black Christmas tree with twisted, fluffy tinsel and gave us instructions – in your best gitchy-gitchy-ya-ya – on the best way to treat a lady (girl, your following already got that down good, that’s why we gots us so many girlfriends, right?). Then you peeled off that material that sort of reminded me of a plucked, dead swan, revealing how svelte you still are in that black, skin-tight, sparkly body suit and rockin’ out like a jamming, jumping, jiving, Jewish Janis Joplin (aided by Jason Joseph, your soulful “Black Up Singer”).

Now I understand why people say your work is edgy…you totally put me on the edge of my seat! Don’t you think I’d be a lot of fun to have around at a party? I’m glad you’re O.K. with getting rid of your house, but you forgot to tell me where you live now so that I can come by and shoot the shit with you. Are we allowed to cuss in front of your daughter? If not, I’m a theatre critic, so maybe I could suggest something for her to see while you and I party hardy (I’m also a great interior decorator – some even call me a natural colorist). I’m gonna bring my companion, but I warn you that he may eat you out ……of house and home, that is.

Now that we know each other well enough, I’m just gonna call you my Succulent Sandy Bitch! Girl, your talent is super-sized. You must be hung like a doughnut! Thanks for a great time.

Tony

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Steven Gunther

Sandra Bernhard: I Love Being Me, Don’t You?
scheduled to end August 21
for tickets, visit http://www.redcat.org or call 213 237-2800

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