On the eve of the Tony Awards, Bartlett Sher — nominated for his grand Broadway revival of “South Pacific” — presents the debut of a new play of much more modest aspirations: “Namaste Man.” A one-person show created and performed by Andrew Weems, it recounts the actor and first-time playwright’s adolescence in the exotic East with a wry collection of coming-of-age stories: a first crush; a comic introduction to drugs; bewildering encounters with adults. While the show’s always amusing and sometimes thought-provoking, its scale and ambitions are small and its impact slight.
Weems (recently on the Rialto in “Inherit the Wind”) spent his adolescence in Kathmandu, Nepal, where his father worked for the U.S. State Dept. It was there that Weems fell in love with theater under the influence of a band of amateur thesps. Today he is a nimble character actor and master of accents — dozens of which are deployed in “Namaste Man.”
Recounting his stage baptism with color and relish, Weems describes how he blew an entrance in a production of “A Thousand Clowns” and how the wisdom imparted to him by a flamboyant Indian mentor helped him overcome the embarrassment.
This delightful story has no doubt been polished over the years while sipping a post-show drink or two. But other scenes and characters conjured up in “Namaste Man” wander a bit, looking for meaning. Weems’ parents, whom he admits were mysteries to him in his youth, remain mysterious. Sher’s direction — simple and straightforward, like Weems’ stage persona — does nothing to animate the vague patches.
In India and Nepal, “Namaste” means both “hello” and “goodbye.” The word provides an appropriate image for a show about transience that may prove transient itself.