- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

“Finiculi, Finicula” meets the “Hava Nagila” medley in Steve Solomon’s mirthful look at multiethnic angst, “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy,” enjoying a month-long stint at the classily renovated Bethesda Theatre.

Mr. Solomon, a former high school physics teacher from Brooklyn, ponders the meatball-matzo ball dichotomy in a hilarious one-man show about the trials and tribulations of growing up both gentile and a member of the tribe.

The 90-minute show is a glorified stand-up routine that takes place in a nondescript therapist’s office. As Mr. Solomon awaits his shrink — he supplies the flummoxed voice of the secretary over the office intercom as well as a host of others — he regales the audience with stories about his colorful and eccentric parents and grandparents.

His Russian-Jewish father met his Italian mother in a Palermo restaurant after World War II and later broke the news by phone to his mother that he was bringing home a shiksa bride. He was amazed his mother not only took the news calmly but also offered up her home and bed to the new couple. “It doesn’t matter,” Mr. Solomon’s grandmother, Bubbie, replied, “because when we hang up I’m going to kill myself.”

With this sort of material, how can you help but become a comedian? Mr. Solomon, who combines wry observations with the punch-line rhythms of a born-in-the-Borscht Belt funnyman, talks about his family and also the nut cases he meets in airports and taxicabs while traveling.

A terrific bit about airport security and the perils of interstall bathroom conversations opens the show, but the choicest portions are dedicated to Mr. Solomon’s Jewish-Italian clan, the language barriers and the stress of dealing with various family members who wear hearing aids but refuse to change the batteries.

His mother, in true Italian style, calls tomato sauce “gravy” and is perennially in the kitchen, while his father is dubbed “a Jewish Forrest Gump” — although his aphorisms are much saltier than those spouted by Tom Hanks.

Mr. Solomon is at his most affectionate and comically affecting when talking about his grandmother describing everything from her upper-arm flab “flaps” to her way with words. She tells her grandson, “Never go to bed mad, stay up all night and fight” and that her husband was “a mail-order bride who was damaged in shipping.”

Another highlight is when Mr. Solomon recounts Bubbie’s efforts to make her daughter-in-law keep kosher, painstakingly outlining the dietary laws that demand keeping meat and dairy separate, only to have his mother shrug and say, “OK, I’ll make shrimp parmigiana.”

The show falters when Mr. Solomon speaks of his ex-wife, hauling out tired stereotypes of women who turn frigid and witchy the second after the “I do’s” are exchanged. He also lowers himself when rendering his ex as the quintessential Jewish-American princess, who uses the smoke alarm as a meal timer and tortures him for making her pregnant.

Thankfully, the “oy” moments are scarce, and “My Mother’s Italian” shows that growing up in a mixed household may result in twice the guilt, but there is three times the love and laughter.

***

WHAT: “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy” by Steve Solomon

WHERE: Bethesda Theatre, 7719 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through March 23.

TICKETS: $40 to $75

PHONE: 800/551-SEAT

WEB SITE: www.bethesdatheatre.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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