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Thursday, June 11, 2009


(Pic: Michael Richard)

Durban gets a rare chance to appreciate the considerable versatility of Michael Richard in “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy!” (Review by Caroline Smart)

Inspired by the various members of his own family – and, apparently, all the people in his life who “drove him to therapy” - Brooklyn comedian and former teacher Steve Solomon created a highly amusing and cleverly-constructed one-man play dealing with identity crisis, parental influence and the challenges that abound in the unfamiliar ground of dating, marriage and fatherhood.

Giving it the lengthy title of My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy!, he presented it in New York with great success. The production attracted rave reviews and won the audience award for favourite new off-Broadway play of 2007.

If you check on the internet, you will find that the show registers something like 1,140 entries, one of the most interesting being TJ Fitzgerald’s interview with Steve Solomon on November 28, 2006; at

In this, Steve Solomon talks about his life and how he first started doing impressions at the age of 12, often deceiving his own mother by pretending to be his grandfather on the phone. He also discusses facets of his life which appear in the play such as working as a comedian on the cruise ships as well as how the title of the play came about.

Back to Durban to the Catalina Theatre and Michael Richard who, I am quite certain, is giving a performance that Steve Solomon would heartily applaud. My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy! is a veritable tour de force requiring the actor to tread the paths of comedy and pathos as the character of Steve who is sitting in his therapist’s rooms waiting for his scheduled session. To while away the time, he reminisces about his life and family and the challenges of having an old world Jewish father with a Russian background and an old world Italian mother, not to mention the various grandparents, siblings and relations.

The gags come thick and fast – like his offering $5 to a taxi driver with an unpronounceable name to go “buy yourself a vowel”. Memorable scenes involve his Italian and Jewish grandmothers discussing what represents kosher food – and later, as he violates Jewish custom by mixing kosher and non-kosher utensils, having to go out at the dead of night and bury them - much to the alarm of the neighbours.

There are delightful moments as the young Steve reaches puberty and poses pertinent questions to which he receives hilarious, albeit unsatisfactory, answers. He meets the woman who is to become his wife at Woodstock – well, actually he falls over her as she is wallowing naked in the mud with friends! Then comes the challenge of parenthood which – apart from coping with his wife’s pregnancy – involves issues like training bras and voice changes.

Michael Richard is one of South Africa’s most respected actors and his CV includes a multitude of theatre productions let alone those in film, television and radio. His capacity to make a character live through accents and body language is impressive. Anyone who seriously considers themselves an actor/actress should take in this production – not once, but several times – to watch how this actor has mastered his craft by manipulating his voice through various levels from a deaf aged granny to a cat with a smoker’s cough!

Brought down from Johannesburg for the purpose, lighting designer Jane Gosnell has brought her efficient talents to the Catalina and for once, thankfully, there were no dark spaces on the stage.

Directed by multi award-winning Charmaine Weir-Smith and produced in South Africa by Afro Asia Events, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy! has attracted rave reviews in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Performances at Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf from Wednesday to Saturday at 20h00, with additional shows at 17h00 on Saturdays (Sundays at 14h00 and 18h00). There is a Buy One Get One Free for the second Sunday performance. Originally a 90-minute show, the creative team have cut this down to a more accessible 75 minutes without an interval. Don’t miss it!

Tickets R110 from or the Catalina Theatre box office on 031 305 6889. – Caroline Smart