You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: ‘Stop Hitting Yourself’

This fitfully funny satire of American materialism has a clever conceit but a postmodern execution that can get wearying.


Thomas Graves, Heather Hanna, Joey Hood, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley, E. Jason Liebrecht, Paul Soileau.

Isn’t it just a bit ironic that “Stop Hitting Yourself,” the Rude Mechs’ pointed (if only fitfully funny) satire of American materialism, should be playing in the grand surroundings of Lincoln Center?  To be sure, this transgressive show is tucked away out of sight at the Claire Trow Theater, the LCT3 venue for experimental new work from Young Turks — and where all tix are humanely fixed at a democratic $20.  But standing on the terrace, it’s still within spitting distance of the stylish crowds headed for the opera and the concert halls. 

Not that any Lincoln Center patron would be caught dead in the kitschy costumes designed by Emily Rebholz for the conspicuous consumers in this broad burlesque of a high-society charity function.  Nor could the elegantly redesigned Alice Tully Hall hope to compete with the riotous vulgarity of this show’s setting, a queen’s palace ostentatiously decorated (by set designer Mimi Lien) in the suffocating gold-on-gold style of King Midas.  (Even a gilded naked statue covers his privates with a gold fig leaf.)

The clever conceit of this social parody is that what passes for charity in our avaricious society is just another exercise in competitive greed.  No matter how much they tap-dance around the issue — and there is quite a bit of literal tap-dancing in helmer Shawn Sides’ smartly staged production — this upper-crust crowd just doesn’t get poverty.

What they do get is dressing up for social events like the annual Charity Ball thrown by the Queen (Paul Soileau, be-wigged and bewitching in drag), who uses the occasion to bestow her one good deed of the year.  “I always like to throw parties for a good cause,” she gushes to the assembled hoi polloi.  “Your sappiness is my happiness.”

But, like so many gestures of noblesse oblige — like, let us say, the awarding of grants to needy arts institutions — the Queen’s charitable giveaway is in truth a competitive event that devolves into something of a blood sport for the contestants.  To prime the audience for the competition, the antic company cajoles us into playing a few interactive games, including one that involves real money and seems harmless, until it goes on to illustrate what some people will do for a buck.

There are the usual greedy challengers at the Queen’s ball this year: a shrewd business Magnate (E. Jason Liebrecht), a spoiled-brat Trust Fund Sister (Hannah Kenah), even an Unknown Prince (Joey Hood) who crashes the party, over the objections of a Maid (Heather Hanna) who was once a classics scholar.  But the team of contestants who stand out in this company are a scheming Socialite (Lana Lesley) and the Wildman (Thomas Graves) she captured in the forest.

This Christ-like figure comes to court with a compassionate message — “Renounce your greed.  Sell your ridiculous possessions.  Feed the hungry.  Clothe the poor.  Care for the sick and the elderly” — that isn’t likely to go over with this crowd.  Especially coming from a filthy, smelly, half-naked  hermit.  So the Socialite proceeds to civilize the creature by teaching him how to talk, dress, and tap-dance in polite society.

Like a lot of work composed by several hands, this collaborative effort of the Austin-based theater collective that brought us “The Method Gun” is uneven, to say the least.  The broad concept of the show is the best thing about it.  The post-modern style of execution, not so much.  While it’s painfully funny to see our ambivalent attitudes about personal wealth reflected in a cheesy tap-dance routine, watching characters splashing around in a fountain of real cheese is no fun at all.  And it’s really too bad that this clever company can’t see the difference.

Off Broadway Review: 'Stop Hitting Yourself'

Claire Tow Theater / Lincoln Center; 112 seats; $20 top.  Opened Jan. 27, 2014.  Reviewed Jan. 24.  Running time: ONE HOUR, 90 MIN.


A Lincoln Center Theater presentation of the Rude Mechs production of a play in one act created by the company and written by Kirk Lynn. 


Directed by Shawn Sides.  Sets, Mimi Lien; costumes, Emily Rebholz; lighting, Brian H. Scott; original music & sound, Graham Reynolds; production stage manager, Jeff Hamlin.  


Thomas Graves, Heather Hanna, Joey Hood, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley, E. Jason Liebrecht, Paul Soileau.

More Legit

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

  • Frozen review Broadway

    ‘Frozen’ the Musical Opening in London in 2020

    “Frozen” the musical is coming to London and will open in the West End in fall 2020. The Michael Grandage-directed Disney Theatrical Productions stage show has been on Broadway for a year. Grandage’s production is now set to re-open Andrew Lloyd Webber’s refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are behind the [...]

  • Nantucket Sleigh Ride review

    Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride'

    Anyone who doesn’t have a cottage on the Cape or the Islands, as they say in Massachusetts, might be puzzled by the title of John Guare’s new play.  “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” is no Revere Beach amusement park ride, but an old whaling term for the death throes of a whale that is still attached to [...]

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content