BWW Review: NY Fringe Show: RUBBLE Offers One-Liners from The Simpsons, The Sopranos and Hollywood Squares vets
"Rubble," written by "The Simpsons" long-time staff writer and producer Mike Reiss and starring "Hollywood Square" Bruce Vilanch, has more one-liners than a comedian's stand-up routine, and not much more of a plot. Vilanch, a long-time TV writer, plays Alvin, a long-time TV writer who can no longer get work in Hollywood because of his age and irascibility, but is invited back by a network executive (Amy Wilson) to make one final pitch, because the network is being sued for age discrimination and "you're over 50."
His pitch for a sitcom: "'My Brother: the Pope'...I want to do a show about the Pope's no-good brother. He's a drunk,he's a womanizer, a con man. And he lives on a couch in the Sistine Chapel." Alvin envisions the show as a cross between "Two and a Half Men" and "The New Testament."
Fifteen minutes into the scene, the stage rumbles, the lights flicker; the characters are caught in an L.A. earthquake, and when the lights return, Alvin is stuck up to his neck in...rubble.
What follows for the next hour would not be mistaken for a piece by Samuel Beckett, though Alvin stays there stuck up to his neck. There are a parade of visitors, presumably Alvin's hallucinations -- including the spirit of his dead father (three different versions), his youthful self, his ex-wife, a man named Jerome (Jason Jacoby) who sings ditties with funny lyrics, Sigmund Freud, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and - the highlight - his agent, Lee, played to perfection by Jerry Adler, who is best-known as Tony Soprano's Jewish friend Hesh in "The Sopranos."
Alvin: Where are you?
Lee: I'm in Hawaii, with my eight grandchildren. Where are you?
Alvin: I'm in Los Angeles, trapped under half a ton of rubble.
Lee: Wanna switch?
"Rubble" is less a play than a stream of jokes - about TV, movies, , L.A., cupcakes, gay people (not so funny) and lots about the theater ("A Tony is just an Emmy for old people") But is that so bad? As Alvin says in "Rubble":
"'Oh Alvin. Always with the jokes.'Why do they say that? I'm a comedy writer. That's
what they pay me for! Nobody says to a supermodel, 'Always with the beauty!'"
Photograph by Jonathan Mandell