Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Virgo: Hebrew Rising

The Sacramento Theater Company program cover describes comedian Brian Diamond’s one-man show, "Virgo: Hebrew Rising" as "anxiety done to perfection." Personally, I found it a bit "over done."

Diamond is the son of two deaf parents, one Jewish and one German, raised as the only white kid in Compton, California, and later a trailer trash kid in a more affluent area of Pollock Pines. He was a funny looking kid with weight problems and a lazy eye, while his brother Lance was handsome and popular.

Diamond is someone who has seen a lot of pain and frustration in his life. Following in the footsteps of countless comedians and monologists before him, the comedian took his pain and turned it into an act, perhaps finding the sharing of his life and his problems with an anonymous audience as therapeutic (and more profitable) than working things out in psychotherapy.

Combining bits from his comedy routines with speculation about the factors which have made him he is the way he is, and slide shows of his family and friends, Diamond attempts to sort out the complexities he sees in his life.

"I have no control over my life or my career. I have no job, no money and no girlfriend. My life’s a country western song!"

The jumping off point for all this introspection is his break-up with his live-in girlfriend Shana, whom he loves very much. Instead of being emotionally distraught by her leaving, he is more upset by the fact that his living expenses just doubled. He gives a complicated (and funny) financial calculation balancing the decision about finding a new apartment with keeping the old one and paying Shana’s part of the rent. And he wonders why he is more concerned with money than he is with the loss of the love of his life. When did he become the guy who found money so important? Is it because he grew up not having any?

Over the course of the hour and 45 minutes (about 45 minutes too long), he asks rhetorical questions about why this part of his life is that way it is, and why that part of his life is the way it is. He wonders whether it is nature or nurture. For example, is he neat, orderly, and methodical because he was born a Virgo, or because that’s how he was raised. (As the Aquarian daughter of a Virgo mother and the mother of a Virgo son, I enjoyed this section)

The best part of the material comes early in the show, as he gives the audience an idea of the pros and cons of growing up with deaf parents (how it affects his relationship with the administration of his various schools is particularly funny). He also uses more sign language more during this section of the show and one gets a fascinating view of what it’s like to both speak and sign at the same time.

The prologue emphasizes the dual ethnicities of Diamond’s parents, though the comedian himself seems to dwell on his Jewish father and his Jewish ethnicity and we learn little about his German mother, except that she seems to have bonded with several unsavory men over a period of time. We don’t learn what role he feels the German part of his ethnicity has played in making him the man he is today.

Diamond is a likeable guy and his material is funny in a gentle rather than a "socko" sort of way. It is a pleasant evening, but the material does begin to wear thin after the first hour.

The piece is directed by Matt Foyer, with a simple set by Myke Kunkel and lighting by Dale Marshall.

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