Steve Solomon in My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish
& I'm in Therapy!
(© Joan Marcus)
Steve Solomon in My Mother's Italian,
My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy!

(© Joan Marcus)
Steve Solomon is a nice man. He's also a mildly funny, inoffensive fellow who can do voices and some nifty sound effects. But do you really want to pay to see him in My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy!, his new Off-Broadway solo comedy show at the Little Shubert Theatre?

Frankly, the even bigger question is why this show is in New York's largest Off-Broadway house rather than in Florida. The audience for this kind of humor is as old as the jokes in the show. More than once throughout this 90-minute show did we hear someone in a craggy whisper behind us happily declare: "I knew that joke!"

The other question is why Solomon has crafted this show as a theater piece, which has been misdirected from the start by John Bowab. As the title promises, the show begins (and never leaves) with Solomon in a therapist's well-appointed office. But the disorienting opening few minutes suggest that Solomon is, in fact, the therapist and not the patient. He's standing up and using the intercom to attempt to talk to the receptionist, and he's even making and receiving phone calls from his parents. Who does these things in a therapist's office except the therapist, himself? It takes awhile before you begin to understand that he is the patient -- and that the therapist's office is just a conveniently arbitrary choice. This show could just as easily be taking place in Solomon's den.

Soon, we hear about Solomon's life. His Jewish GI father brought home an Italian war bride at the end of the Second World War and the two extended families never got over it. There are plenty of jokes that spin out of these two well-defined ethnic stereotypes. His mother cooks and his father doesn't communicate. Whenever a difficult subject comes up, his father's first (and only) response is to suggest going out for Chinese food.

It doesn't take long before this source of humor runs dry, so Solomon soon segues to jokes about his extended family, including a particularly dense Cousin Paulie from his mother's side of the clan. Needing to fill out the program further, Solomon tells us about his travels back and forth to Florida to visit his parents, providing him with the requisite airport security jokes about 90-year old women being searched for weapons. In fact, there is a lot of material in this show that has nothing to do with its ostensible subject matter.

Solomon's show is not without laughs, and it's certainly not without a constituency. But to use his own terminology, it feels like out-of-town Chinese take-out, and not top-of-the-line New York Chinese cuisine.