Straight Downhill

Hetero fag hag Greta Rothman's show sags at Kennedy's.

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Those Seven Little Words Kennedy's Down Under, Playhouse Square Center, 1519 Euclid Avenue Through August 23, 216-241-6000

Many of us grew up with diva dreams, picturing ourselves alone onstage in the spotlight, surrounded by adoring folk. Then Mom came in, wiped the lipstick off our mouths, and told us to get ready for dinner. As we grew, we figured out that, if we really wanted to live that fabulous fantasy of stardom, we'd have to acquire some serious performing chops along the way. Either that or put on our own vanity show for indulgent family and friends. Apparently, Greta Rothman chose the second path in her tedious attempt at cabaret theater, Those Seven Little Words, at Kennedy's.

The premise of the show has great possibilities, with Greta presenting herself as a "gay man trapped in a woman's body." Growing up in University Heights, she swooned over ABBA, The Wizard of Oz, and Wonder Woman. Then she moved on to New York, where she proceeded to fall in love with men who turned out to be homosexual. (Thus, the seven little words: "I love you, so you're probably gay.") Now you'd think that's a great setup for some edgy, insightful comedy and songs dealing with the nexus of the gay and straight worlds. But the humor in Seven, even when vaguely amusing, feels pre-chewed and familiar. There are more fresh and funny gay-straight gags in the first 10 minutes of TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy than in this entire production. The script is so insipid, it actually drags out the Seinfeld gay qualifier "not that there's anything wrong with that" as an early punch line. Greta's anemic anecdotes are interrupted now and then during the brief hour-plus show with her performance of soft-rock and pop tunes, trilled in a warm but thin singing voice that cracks in the higher ranges.

The aggressively casual staging of the show is an attempt to capture a spontaneous, nightclubby atmosphere, but Greta lacks the charisma to bring that off, making it all feel artificial. Her brother Andrew Rothman and Charles Eversole are assigned to play backup, as they gaze adoringly at Greta and laugh, smirk, or grin at her every utterance. Meanwhile, two separated-at-birth gay clones, Eric Alan and Michael Caraffi, sit mostly mute on the couch behind Greta like two stuffed pandas on her bed in the suburbs, only breaking from their own rapt gazing to share a quick duet with the star. In a show crying out for cosmopolitan sophistication, Greta wears a black shirt emblazoned with "Flame Dame" in red sequins. Too bad the boy-toys didn't wear "I'm With Stupid" T-shirts to complete the Six Flags-merchandise-booth costuming theme.

As if all that weren't unfortunate enough, Greta then ends by comparing herself to Bette Midler. While sharing a certain resemblance in face and figure, Ms. Rothman is missing three small qualities: the voice, the attitude, and the sense of humor. Take the lipstick off, Greta, and get ready for dinner.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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