"what lies beneath"
STEP UP TO THE MIKE
Michael Antman September 18, 2023 Reviews 0 Comments
Mic Father, Like Son
Whatever happened to the funny drunk?
Subtext Theater Company’s enjoyable new comedy, Mic Father, Mike Son (not the greatest title, frankly) begins with a retirement party for the number one-rated radio personality in Kansas City, Mike Aldridge, Sr., to which the station’s newscaster, Marty (Andrew Pond) shows up uninvited. Marty, who claims to be a non-drinker, quaffs a couple of cranberry-and-vodkas, and is almost instantaneously transformed into a bug-eyed, blundering blabbermouth who stumbles about the stage, collapses repeatedly and mugs shamelessly for the audience. As a performance, it’s hammy, retrograde, tasteless, irresponsible, a relic of the era of Jackie Gleason or W.C. Fields — and absolutely hilarious. (I never understood why in our socially self-conscious age funny drunks went out of fashion, as they’re always portrayed as fools.) It’s the best thing about this somewhat uneven play, and — as far as the anachronistic stumblebum clowning — that’s easily explained by the fact that the Aldridge family home, as the program states, “has not been redecorated since 1982.” Neither, apparently, has playwright and director Jonathan “Rocky” Hagloch’s approach to comedy, and that’s mostly a good thing.
The heart of the play is a low-stakes romantic triangle of sorts involving Mike Sr. (John Oster), Mike Jr. (Tony DiPisa) and Junior’s long-ago girlfriend Nikki (Sarah Jean Mergener). The nature of the triangle is rather sweet and, yes, old-fashioned — and quite different from what the audience is led to expect at first as, during the course of the raucous party and the following day, two clever plot twists take place. I could see the first twist coming a mile off, but that just made me a sitting duck for the second one, which I didn’t see coming at all.
If the play had been limited to father, son and former girlfriend — and, of course, the unwelcome life of the party, Marty — it would have been tighter and more entertaining. Unfortunately, the party is filled out with five other guests whose presence, for comedic purposes, is largely superfluous. Two of the guests, for example, are Mike Jr.’s sister, with whom he bickers incessantly, and the sister’s husband, who is intended to be a supremely annoying character and succeeds all too well at his appointed role.
There are a few nice moments, however, between Mike Sr. and his horndog brother, played by the multi-talented Hagloch.
With nine characters on stage at any given time (a limo driver played by “Morgan Freeman” is listed in the program as a tenth character) it’s a challenge for the director to keep them bouncing off of each other amusingly and effectively. Unfortunately, the acting styles of the players are wildly divergent. As good as Andrew Pond is, his performance will lead the audience to believe that the play is going to unfold into a classic farce, but it never really develops in that direction. Even as a romantic comedy, there’s something missing — the two young lovers are attractive but they have little palpable chemistry. The play has a lot of slow passages as well where the timing of the dialogue seems oddly off, causing potentially humorous moments to drift off unnoticed into the aether. I found myself, at times, searching for distraction in the meticulously designed set (by Hagloch and John Oster) and in the period music. (Jim Croce’s gorgeous ballad “I’ve Got a Name,” released in 1973, is among the songs played by Mike Sr.’s station, so it’s presumably an oldies station since the play takes place in — well, that’s never made entirely clear.)
But there’s an overriding sense of pleasantness to the well-meaning proceedings, and an ending that will make every audience member happy. The play is appropriate for children (there were a couple in the audience the night I attended), there are big baskets of free candy in the lobby, the house managers are named “Judy Garland” and “Mickey Rooney,” and there’s absolutely nothing that glamorizes the overconsumption of cranberry and vodka.
Reviewed by Michael Antman
Presented by Subtext Theater Company at the St. Bonaventure Oratory Theatre, 1625 W. Diversey Parkway.
Tickets are available at www.subtextnfp.org/box-office.html
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.org.