Laughing All the Way from the Sperm Bank
nytheatre.com review by Alexander Zalben
August 15, 2004
A one-woman show written and performed by a teenager that would actually be a great showcase for a mid-thirties lesbian actress in a career slump? Oh, you wacky Fringe Festival!
Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is the teenaged writer-performer in question, and despite the fact that the material and performer are curiously mismatched, Tattenbaum-Fine is a talented writer with excellent comic timing, making this short, funny show well worth watching.
Laughing All the Way from the Sperm Bank takes off from a conversation between a lesbian couple looking to get impregnated. While the couple deliberates about what type of sperm to choose, they dream of what their daughter might turn out to be like. This gives Tattenbaum-Fine the opportunity to follow the time-honored one-woman show tradition of portraying all the nutty characters she can do.
But although the characters are very well-formed and well-written, the performance is another story. Tattenbaum-Fine has a high, squeaky cartoonish voice that should make her very successful in voiceovers or sitcoms, but it doesn’t allow her to effectively differentiate between her characters. Additionally, it’s never clear why a teenager is writing and performing a show about two lesbians at a sperm bank. Is the implication that these are her parents? Her intentions are never made clear and so we lose the two cornerstones of one-person shows: personal confessions and distinct characterizations.
Thus I am led to the conclusion that this would be a great showcase for someone other than the author herself. However, Tattenbaum-Fine does have excellent comic timing and even some of the sillier or punnier jokes in the show are sold by her excellent delivery, but more to the credit of her crisp, clear writing. So while she may not be a good character comic, this show makes very clear that she is a good writer, and knows how to deliver her jokes.
Her bio states that she’ll be performing in open mics around town, which is great news. A stand-up who has good writing and timing behind her is always in short supply. As for this show itself? Catch it if you want to see a new comic voice. Otherwise, wait until next year’s Fringe, when it’s sure to be performed by an aging drag queen backed up by a chorus of go-go boys dressed in Bush masks. Or something like that.