MY SALVATION HAS A FIRST NAME: A Wienermobile Journey
nytheatre.com review by Zachary Fithian
August 12, 2008
Robin Gelfenbien had the enormously hard task, for a year, of getting people to take the Wienermobile seriously. The anatomical implications of this particular American icon are hard to ignore, especially when it is parked on the side of the highway near the exit for the lovely town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania. For most of us, the Wienermobile is, at best, a passing fancy. At worst, it is a giant, well, you know. For Gelfenbien, it is most certainly no joke.
In My Salvation Has a First Name, Gelfenbien tells her all-too-true story, a sad tale of teasing and ridicule at Syracuse University. She was Jewish, a tad awkward, and she bore a striking resemblance, at least to the boys from Syracuse, to an actor from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (And, no, I'm not talking about Phoebe Cates.) She had, too, an almost unhealthy obsession with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Her fantastical notions of becoming a Hot Dogger (Wienermobile driver to the layman) were not, well, normal. But, unlike all of us normal folks, she would eventually get to realize her fantasy.
With her one-woman show, Gelfenbien takes her place among such monologuers as Eve Ensler, Vanessa Redgrave, and Billy Crystal. Though her life may not possess the same scope as Crystal's or Joan Didion's, Gelfenbien is beyond endearing, and she makes the most of a story that, like the Wienermobile and all the hot dogs it stands for, has very little actual meat. Gelfenbien shows such passion that you can't help but root for her. She's fearless, really, willing to compose songs and dance sparkly dances to get the job of her dreams.
As a storyteller, Gelfenbien has very wisely accepted the notion that, when it comes to ridiculous and funny, you can't beat real life. "I couldn't make this stuff up," she says, as she stands looking at actual pictures of herself at graduation—in a cap and gown complete with Wienermobile tassel. This self-deprecation and the wealth of hilarious anecdotes that necessarily arise from driving a 27-foot hot dog are the bread and butter (or relish?) that Gelfenbien uses to craft such an entertaining night of theatre. You'll surely enjoy yourself, and you'll get a hot dog whistle!!!