nytheatre.com review by Ivo Tomasini
"I want to be plugged in" is the first line we hear in the one-hour
one-man show Almost Obscene, written and performed by Joe Raiola
and directed by Barbara Pitcher at P.S. 122. Lying down and stretching
as if just awakening, Raiola begins with a soft, tender reminiscence of
a time spent in the serenity of the wilderness. For a moment, we think
that we’re in for a long, tree-hugging babbling of a die-hard granola
head. Until, that is, Raiola graphically proceeds to demonstrate, with
precise pelvic thrusts, just how it is that he literally "plugged in" to
August 15, 2002
In the tradition of George Carlin, (whom Raiola later cites as one of his direct influences), we are immediately drawn into the cynical, comical, jeering and energetic modern day commentary of a man frustrated with our excessively driven American way of life. "We drive everywhere…even to the bus stop!" The delivery of his monologue is dynamically played out in a manner that seems to rattle the audience from their sluggish mind set. Raiola’s social and political points come at us like the quick jabs of a boxer, and before we can recover, he’s already combined another flurry of cynicisms to keep us alert. Meanwhile, he bobs and weaves in and out of everything from the corruption of Catholicism to that of ice-skating, not to mention America’s megalomaniacal obsession with censorship as a power tool.
Hilarious at times, thought-provoking at others, Almost Obscene doesn’t leave much room for speculation as one topic is quickly shoved off to the side by the next. This is an enjoyable performance whose subject matter we’ve all heard before, but leaves us feeling stirred and awakened, like a good ol’ Italian back of the hand. Leaning less towards a play, this is the raw, analytical commentary of a man who seems to be doing anything but acting. The recommendation for the day is to visit this piece of mind spin for anyone in need of a good, hardy dose of post-9/11 wake-me-up.