nytheatre.com review by Maura Kelley
August 13, 2010
It was Friday the 13th so I should have been on alert. After realizing that I was on line for a different show I had to talk my way in because they shut the doors! Thankfully, I got to see this fantastic heartfelt, hilarious one-freckled-man show. I knew ahead of time, I would probably get at least a laugh out of this show being that like Walsh, I'm Irish and a big fan of Blue color radio, but boy, was I wrong. Instead of just a guffaw, Over There offers a thought-provoking, side-splitting journey through PJ Walsh's not so ordinary life. The play is told in story form with Walsh playing himself at various ages as well as hilarious and specific characterizations of the oddball folks he's met along the way. Highlights include Bill Clinton and Hillary, his uptight training sergeant, his gruff Dad, and his ethnic grade school teacher.
Walsh begins with tales of childhood as a young, not-so-focused Catholic boy with freckles growing up in a small town in New York. He then reveals that his life-altering decision to enlist in the navy was heavily influenced by his love of the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Of course he never suspected the possibility of war. Especially uproarious are Walsh's stories of military training followed by his highly regarded promotion to absolute power in the White House as dental technician for President Clinton.
Walsh's only set is a metal chair moved about onstage but that's all he needs. He is surprisingly good at break dancing. But what really impresses is Walsh performance of an uncountable amount of push-ups while simultaneously narrating, acting, and infusing comic bits without sounding out-of-breath! His show is supported exceptionally by sound and music choices. Director Dion Flynn kept things simple and moving allowing Walsh to focus on his stories.
Walsh is a storyteller and he has a spontaneity that makes it feel like he's telling these stories almost for the first time. There an ease and comfort to his narrative. But what makes this show truly more than just a talented standup with funny observations on life is he lets us know he's discovered his life's purpose. Part of his standup career includes traveling overseas to entertain the troops. I don't want to give away endings but just when you're thinking you can laugh no more, he hits you in the stomach with raw emotion and you realize his comic agenda is not just about him but to help and support others as well. I've already told my friends to go see this show and now I'm telling you.