- by Sandra Bernhard and John Boskovich
- produced by Theater J
- reviewed by Janice Cane
Theater J’s website warns that Sandra Bernhard’s solo show, starting off a new tour here in the nation’s capital, is not for the easily offended. Indeed. And it’s certainly not for Republicans, of whom there were probably few in Thursday night’s audience, anyway. She has some good lines-putting on a pair of Palin-esque glasses and proclaiming “I eat moose raw” and calling Joe Lieberman a shanda – but my goodness, even I was taken aback by the vituperative attacks. I’m not sure Bernhard ever utters Sarah Palin’s name, instead referring to her as “the witch” (well, once-mostly it’s the word that rhymes with “witch”), and Bernhard threatens to do some pretty terrible things to her. After all, as Bernhard says, unlike Barack Obama and Joe Biden, she doesn’t have to be politically correct.
Bernhard alternates haphazardly between these enraged political rants and zany lamentations for the lost ’80s, where she says she has a timeshare. She also reflects on her life today. She name-drops (Stevie Nicks and a Dixie Chick) “because it’s cool,” and talks about keeping kosher and raising her pre-Bat Mitzvah daughter with her non-Jewish girlfriend. They are trying to teach her about compassion, and so they sponsor a young impoverished child from Sri Lanka. But is it kind to read aloud from the child’s letter, mocking the broken English and religious sentiment? I’m not so sure.
I liked Bernhard more when she was belting out tunes in that fantastically strong voice of hers, backed by the Rebellious Jezebels: Mitchell Kaplan (keyboards), Chris Jacks (guitar), and Miles Kennedy (drums). Her best moment came during a tribute to Nina Simone, when her mic went out. She tried a second mic, and sure enough that was out too. So she simply shrugged and kept on singing, occasionally giving the mics a test blow, until a stagehand helped her out. She handled the situation like the pro she is, and the audience rewarded her for it.
The audience seemed to consist entirely of diehard Sandra fans – for the entire bloated two hours I felt like I was missing something. When she wasn’t reading directly from a script on a music stand, she was rambling off on tangents (“How did I get sidetracked anyway?” That time, she was discussing U.S. politics regarding Israel and ending up describing her greasy, bloody stint in a kibbutz slaughterhouse).
So to the producers’ warning I’d add a note: Not for the easily offended, or for anyone who isn’t already a fan, because Without You I’m Nothing will not convert the nonbelievers. But I must give credit where it’s due: The woman can change into a pair of skintight leather pants faster than I could even fathom, and she high-kicks like a Rockette on speed while wearing them.
Running Time: 2:00, no intermission
When: Thru September 28. Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8:00, Saturdays at 8:00 and 10;30, and Sundays at 3:00.
Where: Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW, Washington, DC
Tickets: $45-$60. Call: 800-494-TIXS or consult the website.