Judy Gold is just like the woman next door. That is, if the woman next door just happens to be a 6 foot 3 inch Jewish lesbian stand-up comic and mother of two. Her one-woman autobiographical show Mommy Queerest, currently running at Theater J, is a wonderful juxtaposition of the mundane, the unusual, and the occasionally outrageous which ends up being a warm and funny delight.
Judy Gold has coped with many of the same problems we all face: the awkwardness of youth, complicated parental interactions, and the challenges of dating and relationships. She’s also had a couple of more unusual and difficult challenges: getting others to accept her sexuality and, later, her desire for a career in show business. As a young girl, Judy coped by escaping inside a television set. She found that the world of cheesy sitcoms we all loved (whether we admit it or not) offered comfort when there was none in the wider world. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in The Brady Bunch world or have a caring teacher like those in Room 222?
Having used those shows to save her life as a kid, Gold now uses them as an effective device to share her hopes, life, and fears with the audience, recalled both with visuals on a large upstage screen and by Gold herself, frequently resorting to the piano on stage next to her. The later-life television references hit home immediately. Like sweet Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she heads to the big city in hopes of making it on her own. In the meantime, her adult relationship with her outspoken mother resembles that of Dorothy and Sophia on The Golden Girls.
We see Gold as she goes from network to network, trying to pitch a sitcom based on her own life. As her life changes so does the sitcom, and this device allows her to pause and assess her life, her career, and the extent society has come to accept her and other lesbian women. These mini-sketches are comedic highlights. Each sitcom pitch has an explanatory theme song for It’s Judy’s Show only to have a dense network executive try to understand the idea before ultimately rejecting it.
Gold has the full set of professional stand-up comedy chops and delivers non-stop laughs, yet what makes the show truly special is her searing honesty as she explains her life. No matter what bizarre thing happens, it is to her a normal life with just the occasional edgy moment (including the inevitable Leave It to Beaver joke) to spice things up. While she occasionally uses blue language, none of it seemed to matter to the blue-haired audience members, much less the younger ones.
The set resembles a comedy club, complete with tables and chairs lining the stage. Although the use of the screen for family movies and other pictures is endearing, none of director Amanda Charlton’s staging distracts from Judy Gold.
Perhaps the only false note about Mommy Queerest is the title. While the act does have personal and political themes inextricably tied to Judy’s sexuality, Mommy Queerest has old-fashioned charm and heart and will provoke laughter from all sorts of mothers and their offspring.
Performed by Judy Gold
Book by Judy Gold, Eric Kornfeld and Bob Smith
Lyrics by Eric Kornfeld . Music by John McDaniel
Directed by Amanda Charlton
Presented by Theater J