nytheatre.com review by John Samuel Jordan
August 15, 2004
Freddie, written by Jessie Robles and performed by Jessie Baade (the same person), is whacky, good, old-fashioned Borscht Belt fun. (FYI: the Borscht Belt embodies the theaters and nightclubs associated with the Jewish summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains.)
The premise alone is hilarious. A Catholic girl named Freddie is visited by an angel from her bedroom closet. "Go forth and entertain in the mountains. Don't forget to tip your wait staff," beckons the spirit of Jewish comic Freddie Roman. Our little heroine then begins to spew out zingers at unsuspecting relatives during a family sing-a-long as if she were already a Borscht Belt pro with turrets, and, against her mother’s wishes, develops a crush on Danny Kaye. She believes in her destiny and prepares for her calling.
Does she make it? Go find out for yourself, you will be glad you did. I attended the premiere FringeNYC performance for Freddie. There were only six of us in the audience. Perhaps it was the early afternoon timeslot, or the unfamiliarity of the trip to Pace University’s Spotlight Lounge. Whatever the reason, the reason needs to go away. Baade’s unique blend of deadpan, dry, and sluggish humor deserves a jam-packed, laughing audience.
One of the best bits is when her lesbian sister Gracie insists on becoming Freddie’s manager after Gracie’s partner (also named Gracie) passes on. Baade’s interpretation of Gracie is priceless.
Semi-hidden and situated upstage right for most of the performance is Jason Baade, who reads a few minor characters, including the angels and a priest. Whenever Freddie goes to confession, Ms. Baade mimes Freddie’s actions while Mr. Baade provides the sound effects. It’s a brilliant gag.
Director Alysa Wishingrad works well to keep the piece moving. Projections and set design by Dara Wishingrad are also brilliant. Just a handful of slide projections appear to set the mood. It’s not overdone, nor obtrusive. The sound design by Ins and Outs is quite odd: “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee” plays over an early monologue and is quite a distraction. Then “To Sir With Love” plays randomly throughout the rest of the show. But in retrospect, these choices are also brilliant, as is the entire production.