Review: Sandra Bernhard Brings Her Own Brand of SANDEMONIUM to The Sorting Room at the Wallis
Sandra Bernhard is a performer, actress, singer and author who first gained attention in the late 1970s with her politically incorrect stand-up comedy in which she often bitterly critiqued celebrity culture and political figures. Currently she hosts the hugely popular Sandyland, her daily radio show on SiriusXM's Radio Andy channel 102, now going into its third year, for which she won a Gracie Award. And although the #MeToo movement has tamed her biting humor just a bit, this pioneer of the one-woman show entertained audiences with her completely unique and raucous mix of cabaret, stand-up, rock-n-roll, and social commentary in the Lovelace Studio Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, opening its the Sorting Room Series December 13-15, 2018.
According to Bernhard, SANDEMONIUM is swirling all around us, with minute to minute "breaking news" although no one knows what's coming next. Will it be climate disaster, a Russian invasion, or more "fake" news about unhinged leaders. Not sure if it's been part of your life yet? It has if you can answer "yes" to any of the questions she poses at the start of the show: Have you been slut shamed? Are you gender neutral? Come face to face with a white supremacist? Swam through a flood? Run from a fire? Observed a chunk of the polar ice cap floating away? Changed religions and still found no peace of mind? Birthed two sets of twins two years apart? Renovated your kitchen? Taken a bad batch of ecstasy? Discovered your food supply is loaded with GMO's? Has your Instagram account been hacked? Thank goodness Sandy and the Sandyland Squad Band can make it all better, or at least get you laughing about life, during the 90-minute show!
And while she may not be the greatest singer to ever take the stage, her raw enthusiasm and oversized personality enveloped each of her songs, especially her opening revival-style meeting rendition of Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" in which she celebrated spiritual freedom with each clang of her tambourine. Her own brand of Self Love is apparent in everything she does, accepting her differences with such aplomb you cannot help but love her exactly as she is.
Moving on to a bit of political humor, Bernhard professed her thanks to Nancy Pelosi for making it fun to follow the madness in Washington, DC, her support for Michelle Obama running for President in 2020, and her love for service dog Tully laying in front of H.W. Bush's casket. Of course, she then moved on to making fun of blondes driving SUVs, all the plastic in the world, as well as past run-ins with other celebrities - but I'm not naming names here, sorry folks!
Bernhard did name a few who have allowed her to claim being in the #MeToo movement, suffering abuse from several male comics who offered to help her break into show biz by inviting her to their hotel rooms, then answering the door in a terrycloth robe expecting more from her than just a thank you. "To this day, I cannot be near terrycloth," she said, and it was easy to believe her after listening to the sordid tales.
Prior to her wonderful rendition of "Everything's Alright" from Jesus Christ Superstar, Bernhard spoke of the great 20-year loving relationship with her girlfriend Sara, as well as her devotion to her daughter Cecily, although neither was in the audience the night I attended. After ranting on about more celebrities and many perceived social injustices, Bernard ended the show celebrating her joyous life with a medley of songs including "Let it Be," "Let it Go," "Live and Let Die," and "Your Love is my Life." It was a wonderful celebration of a life well lived in love, truth and honesty: a perfect combination of what has always made and will continue to make Sandra Bernhard a real crowd pleaser.
The inimitable Sandra Bernhard performs her all new show SANDEMONIUM in The Sorting Room, named in honor of the room's original purpose as a mail sorting room at the main Beverly Hills post office during Hollywood's Golden Age, lending a bit of old Hollywood nightclub glamour to her show at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills, CA on Thursday, December 13th at 7pm, Friday, December 14th at 7pm and 9pm and Saturday, December 15th at 7pm and 9pm. For tickets, please visit http://www.thewallis.org/ or call (310) 746-4000, or via email to Tickets@thewallis.org.
The Sorting Room Winter 2018 Series includes:
Sandra Bernhard: SANDEMONIUM! - December 13, 7 pm; December 14, 7 pm and 9 pm; and December 15, 7 pm and 9 pm
Joely Fisher: Growing Up Fisher - December 16, 2018, 7 pm
Magic Moments: An Evening Remembering Hal David - December 19, 2018, 7 pm
A Little Night Music PRESENTS An Evening of New Musical Theatre Songs - December 20, 2018, 7 pm
Corky Hale Presents The Two Mrs. Strollers - December 21, 2018, 7 pm
For The Record Presents Amber Riley & Friends: That's What Christmas Means To Me - December 22, 2018, 7pm and 9 pm
And don't miss Love Actually Live running nightly through December 31 celebrating the film and its award-winning soundtrack by transforming the Wallis' Bram Goldsmith Theater into a giant, immersive, multimedia cinema for the modern day with a full orchestra!
Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho