Something to remember: writing, producing, directing and acting in a play mounted in your own theatre is probably not a good idea. Case in point: I’m Not Jewish But My Mother Is! written, produced and so on by Steve Martin on his own stage. Trite, repetitive and clichéd with a predictably gooey centre, the comedy is a prime example of how being overly involved in something blinds you to its faults.
Not that Martin hasn’t shown talent in many things theatrical. As owner of The Gladstone, he’s produced some excellent shows. As a director, he did a bang-up job in 2009 with David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr.’s howlingly funny The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Christmas Carol. As an actor, he was first-rate, several years ago, in Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black at Ottawa Little Theatre, and has since held his own in Glengarry Glen Ross, Noises Off and other shows at The Gladstone.
But in those cases, he was wearing just one or two hats. With I’m Not Jewish …, he’s wearing them all so there’s no place for anyone with a dissenting view of Martin’s writing or staging decisions, no room for someone to suggest richer character development, no one to notice that maybe all that dancing (and Martin, a professional ballroom dancer, is undeniably fleet of foot) is overkill.
The play’s storyline is simple enough: successful bachelor lawyer Christopher Bloomfeld (Martin) has a stereotypical Jewish mother Rose Bloomfeld (Barbara Seabright-Moore) whose mouth pops into gear before her brain is fully engaged; lawyer also has a curvaceous girlfriend Felix (Bekah Fay) who arrives at his apartment while mouthy mother is visiting unannounced; sparks fly – though maybe not in the way you’d expect; heart-to-heart resolves all.
Its trajectory void of surprises and its dialogue flat, the show is only occasionally funny. Seabright-Moore’s acting is over the top and Fay’s one-note (Martin’s is better than both but overly reliant on tired moves like eye rolls to express frustration with his mother).
On the upside, Martin’s directing does keep the show moving at a good clip, and the second act is more engaging than the first.
Martin has been cast in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests starting Aug. 28 at The Gladstone under director John P. Kelly. It’s an opportunity for redemption.
I’m Not Jewish But My Mother Is! at The Gladstone until Aug. 8. Tickets: 613-233-4523
• Christopher Bloomfeld – Steve Martin
• Rose Bloomfeld – Barbara Seabright-Moore
• Felix – Bekah Fay
• Director – Steve Martin
• Set & Lighting Designer – David Magladry
• Costume Designer – Tiara Wallace