Made in Heaven
nytheatre.com review by Brad Lee Thomason
October 29, 2009
I didn't know what to expect when I showed up at the Soho Playhouse to see Jay Bernzweig's new play Made in Heaven, which is fresh from a run at the Midtown International Theatre Festival earlier this year. The premise seemed decidedly silly: two fraternal twins named Max and Benjie who are conjoined at the penis are planning to propose to their mutual girlfriend; except that one of them is straight, and one of them is gay. However, according to the press release it also promised to be a play about "family ties being put to the ultimate test" so I wasn't quite sure what kind of play I'd be seeing. The family, besides the permanently attached brothers, turns out to be comprised of a bisexual hooker named Gilbert whom Benjie calls from the back of magazine (yes, there is a sticky pages reference, in case you were wondering) and Jessica, the overweight and outspoken object of Max's affection.
What we end up with is literally a big, long, pointless dick joke. It's a setup suitable for a seven-minute sketch comedy routine, maybe; but impossible to sustain for an hour and a half.
Look, I'm all for a little slapstick, some raunchy humor, some penis jokes, and if you really butter me up maybe even some on-stage coitus and fellatio...these things can be funny, when they are in a funny play. Here it all just comes across as desperate, as if director Andrew Shaifer was trying to hide the sans-substance plot and thoroughly unbelievable characters by throwing in as many sight gags as he possibly could, no matter how contrived they may be. On the other side of the creative team we have a playwright who is sure a play can be funny as long as you include enough ludicrously outrageous plot points. We have a superficial, rotund fiance. There are two men with one penis. There is a bisexual bodybuilding gigolo. And they're all having sex with each other! The story makes sure to allow for tons of classic joke subjects like gays, fat people, masturbation, man-thongs, not to mention the buckets upon buckets of aforementioned penis jokes, and just for good measure a couple of true groaners about New Jersey and Republicans, because nobody has ever made fun of any of these things before. The humor is base, sophomoric, puerile, redundant, and rarely amusing.
The implausibility of the entire "familial" arrangement is even worse. The relationship between Jessica and Gilbert as ex-spouses is irritatingly ridiculous, as is the story of Gilbert's previous career as a molecular biologist. I imagine the fact a molecular biologist didn't ever realize conjoined twins must be identical and can't possibly even be fraternal to begin with may be some sort of inside joke instead of just another missed detail, but by the time this thought hit me I had utterly stopped caring.
Kevin Thomas Collins and Alex Anfanger probably have the comic timing and ability to be good in other roles, and they work well together in their single pair of three-legged jeans. As far as the characters of Jessica and Gilbert, played by Maia Madison and Matthew Bondy, they are written and played as uninteresting caricatures but I fault the script much more than the performers. The set, a fairly unimaginative and blase modern apartment setting, does not really make me think we're in Manhattan or offer any character traits of the unusual roommates who reside there.
One of the promotions the producers offer to get out of paying the rather high ($59.00) ticket price is to let any twin into the show for free, as long as you can provide proof of this fact to the box office. Unfortunately, for this show, that is the only way I could possibly recommend seeing it, and even then I would have grave reservations.