Theater review by Helen Shaw
It's possible that you think you’ve already had your fill of dick jokes. If so, the sly, digressive comedian Jacqueline Novak might be able to turn you around. In her languid one-woman stage special Get On Your Knees, Novak talks for nearly 90 minutes about blow jobs, discussing men’s strangely shy appendage (“Calling it a cock is…telling it what it wants to hear”), the vulva (which she assures us does not look like a rose) and her own winding path through high-school self-consciousness and collegiate anxiety toward full oral confidence.
There’s no non-innuendo-y way to say that the show has a slow build, that Novak and director John Early delay its climax a little too long, and that the poetry-minded Novak sometimes extends her riffs to the point that they’re serving her pleasure more than ours. But Novak’s ultimately winning show does what the best comedy can do: It changes the conversation. Chevy Chase made Gerald Ford permanently seem like a bumbling yo-yo; Novak does the same for the D.
The show’s most effective section is her systematic dismantling of the male-determined phallic lexicon. “Rock hard”? She rolls her eyes, then does a very good imitation of a penis flopping daintily over “the fainting couch that is the inner thigh.” This is but one example of how Novak can be absurd, real, hilarious and—though I hate to sound uncool—useful. While the show is sex-positive as hell, it’s crucially aggression-negative. The next time a guy on the street catcalls you and points to his johnson, it’ll help to remember that he’s really talking about a histrionic little diva, one tantrum away from a swoon.
Cherry Lane Theatre (Off Broadway). Written and performed by Jacqueline Novak. Directed by John Early. Running time: 1hr 30mins. [Note: The production returns to the Cherry Lane for a month in July 2021.]