Entertainment :: Theatre

Celebrity Autobiography

by Ellen Wernecke
Contributor
Wednesday Oct 19, 2011
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Rachel Dratch in "Celebrity Autobiography"
Rachel Dratch in "Celebrity Autobiography"  (Source:Kornberg PR)

Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel have a question for celebrities everywhere: Why so serious? The show they created, "Celebrity Autobiography," takes stars to task onstage in New York, L.A., and elsewhere for that deadly earnest (and often gross) form of fan pandering, the purported tell-all that most often reinforces a star’s ego instead of shedding a frank light on her life.

Usually both earnest and gross, these books are on the best-seller shelf one week and the remainder table the next, but may find their longest afterlife in "Celebrity Autobiography," which "honored" stars from Debbie Reynolds to The Situation at a recent New York edition held at the Upper West Side’s Triad Theater.

Pack emphasized during the show that his rotating cast doesn’t change any words from the books -- although some creative organization happens, as in a mash-up of a Sylvester Stallone diet and exercise book with a chapter from Tommy Lee’s "Tommyland" offering sex advice.

Rachel Dratch, former "SNL" maven with an autobiography of her own due out was in fine form as the evening allowed her to showcase her impressions from Ethel Merman to Frankie "the bonus" Jonas.

The material is just that ludicrous, from Diana Ross’s exultation of her 1983 Central Park show (how difficult it must have been for her!) to Suzanne Somers’ cringe-inducing poetry (how lonely she must be!)

Not that some interpretation isn’t welcome: Rachel Dratch, former "SNL" maven with an autobiography of her own due out next year (called "Girl Walks Into A Bar..."), was in fine form as the evening allowed her to showcase her impressions from Ethel Merman to Frankie "the bonus" Jonas.

But the name most on the lips of the crowd as audience members filed in for the show: "Ralph Macchio?!" The former "Karate Kid" (and how he must hate being referred to as such), now tanned and handsome with one eyebrow that goes up slightly as he reads, tackled one of the most cringeworthy segments of the night, a passage from David Cassidy’s "C’mon, Get Happy" in which he describes the effort it took to sleep with Susan Dey, who played his sister onscreen in "The Partridge Family".

Macchio’s composure as he delivered this stomach-turning story was absolute. He and unbilled frequent guest Michael Urie (best known for playing Vanessa Williams’ crafty assistant on the much missed "Ugly Betty") represented a study in contrasts -- Urie would take frequent pauses in his reading of Miley Cyrus’ autobiography, among others, to make a face or editorialize in a whisper -- but both exemplified the cast’s willingness to make fools of themselves, for the purpose of making fools of the famous.

"Celebrity Autobiography" has an open-ended run at the Triad Theatre, 158 West 72nd St. For info or tickets call 212-362-2590 or visit www.triadnyc.com/

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.

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