Glaser’s comedy is inspired with dead-on re-creations of these family members. There’s her father, Mort, a harried accountant who can’t understand one of his daughter’s lesbian tendencies; her mother, Bev, whose lithium-filled days result from a nervous breakdown; her older sister Fern, the lesbian, who goes through a raucous childbirth; the younger sister Sandra, a 16-year-old raging punk rocker who has just lost her virginity; and her grandmother Rose, who in between suicide attempts enjoys graphically describing her active octagenarian sex life (“Sometimes he’s all hot and heavy, and I’m thinking: Did I pay the insurance bill?”).
The 33-year-old actress creates them through five monologues in a stellar performance. She is best in her physical incarnations, whether it’s her beleaguered father with his droopy shoulders or her wobbling grandmother who can barely get out of the chair. She coyly retains certain elements for all five like an accented slurring of words and a quirky cockeyed stare that read like familial traits.
Glaser finds verbal and emotional detail that’s normally miss
ing from wisecracking Jewish family shtick. When mother Bev describes her nervous breakdown, it’s funny, but hard to take. Glaser doesn’t just give us the Catskills-type punch lines, she lets the scenes carry on once the laughs are gone, allowing for more pathos than you might expect.
No denying the writing is funny. Glaser and her husband Greg Howells, who also directed, draw on typically self-deprecating Jewish quips.
When older sister Fern goes through the agonizing contractions during childbirth — a process she likens to stubbing your toe on a metal bed frame every five minutes — she says: “I realized at the time why women die in childbirth — it’s preferable.”
Mort philosophizes on his 20 years of commuting on the 6:59 Long Island Railroad train: “Why couldn’t it ever be the 7?”
Often, though, Glaser and Howells miss large laugh opportunities, building a comic scene only to let its climax drift away in a moment of pathos.
She is keen to explore her family’s downside as well as its silliness. Each is depressed, some manic, and all are desperate for happiness in their routine lives. Still, what’s missing is a sense of story that might turn the piece from five terrific acting-class monologues into a cohesive play.
Howell’s direction is hard to distinguish from his wife’s skill and level of comfort on stage, but he can probably be credited for silky transitions between the characters.
They include full costume changes, but they slip by almost unnoticed.