The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal
nytheatre.com review by Jonny Cigar
February 26, 2012
If you think that a sunny day is enough to cure The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal you may not fully understand the depths of his “manpain.” Rainy days are easy for this woebegone Irishman (played by female Emleigh Wolf), but bright sunny days merely allow for a “juxtaposition” of his sorrow. Wherever there is despair, failure and rejection in one heaping spoonful, there you will find Umberto MacDougal.
Wolf’s portrayal of Umberto, a prophet of melancholia, is consummate with an impressively farcical full beard to catch the tears of constant sorrow. But tear not: Umberto’s manpain is laughable, in fact, it is laugh-out-loud-laughable.
Umberto appears to be a cross between Al Borland from Home Improvement and Red Green of The Red Green Show, donned apropos in flannel. His self-inflicted one-liners—the evening is comprised of many collected from Wolf’s standup routines at Penny’s Open Mic—are on par with some of Red Green’s quotes, like, “And men, remember, if the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” In Umberto’s case, “If you’re a man and you want a woman to ease your suffering, you may be waiting a while.”
And like something out of Wallace Stevens’ “The Man with the Blue Guitar,” a lone guitarist, Mike Hamilton (played by Mike Ogletree), underscores Umberto’s tales of woe, oft supplying unwelcome reminders of rejection, like daggers that strike the heart of Umberto who then submits to the telling of more disparaging stories to a truly sympathizing audience—the night I attended the crowd was rambunctious with laughter and bellowing agony. Hamilton’s strumming lends a nice undercurrent of witty intrinsic emotion that compliments Wolf’s somber comedic delivery.
The play feels at times a bit off-the-cuff, like the fusion of a standup routine and poetry slam, but the routine goes on a bit too long (a twisted dénouement makes up for seemingly lost time). Given the material is joke-driven, Bricken Sparacino’s simple direction is practical without a lot of shuffling or unnecessary action. At times however there is a bit of awkward staging between Wolf and Ogletree, which on more than one occasion interrupts the good flow Wolf establishes.
One of the highlights from the evening was in fact, painless, and credit must be given to Ms. Wolf for inventing one of the more original and hilarious spoofs about the iPad I’ve yet to see. I only hope the joke isn’t somehow on us. But you’ll have to see the show to find out, and lucky enough you can, because The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal will see three more performances at Under St. Marks as part of this year’s FRIGID New York Festival.