Theater review by Raven Snook. The Duplex (Off-Off Broadway). By Ben Rimalower. Dir. Aaron Mark. With Rimalower. 1hr. No intermission.
A director and writer by trade, self-professed musical-theater queen Ben Rimalower turns out to be a natural in the spotlight as well. In the dishy, high-energy Patti Issues, Rimalower explains how his fraught relationship with his gay, narcissistic father dovetailed with his obsession with Broadway überstar Patti LuPone. Perhaps because he isn’t a professional actor, the performance feels casual and intimate, as if he were holding court at a cocktail party. But make no mistake: Patti Issues is meticulously scripted and executed, with poignant punch lines that deliver laughs, emotion and insight into gay diva worship in equal measure.
There are lots of tasty showbiz tidbits to savor (especially for those already acquainted with every inflection of LuPone’s voice), but the evening is really about Rimalower’s family drama and burgeoning career. Although the particulars of his history are unique—your dad probably never tried to kill himself in front of you, and you’ve probably never run lines with a half-dressed LuPone—he expands them into a moving tribute to the healing power of show tunes. Are all of Patti Issues’s incredible details and coincidences 100 percent true? Who knows? Rimalower recounts his coming-of-stage tale with such wit, feeling and conviction that you buy every outrageous word of it.—Raven Snook