By Sarah Breger
Going to Mommy Queerest at Theater J the other night was a bit like going to Miami—the theatre was packed with old Jews and gay people. Luckily, I love both. The one-woman show starring comedian Judy Gold relates the story of her life, her family and her quest for her own TV sitcom through jokes, songs and the occasional Mary Tyler Moore impersonation. Gay, Jewish, the mother of two children and the daughter of the stereotypical Jewish mother on steroids, she has one heck of a story to tell. Gold describes everything from growing up as a tall outcast in high school to realizing her dreams of being a comedian at Rutgers, to her first girlfriend and subsequent breakup, to her current relationship. Most of this is told through the lens of the TV sitcoms of her youth that she watched as an escape from her stifling New Jersey home. Shows like The Partridge Family and Welcome Back, Kotter informed her views of what family and the world should be like. Unfortunately, it was those parts that often fell flat for me (although admittedly it might be generational—if she had been discussing Full House or 90210, I might have found it hysterical). The parts that were the funniest were when Gold described her relationship to her parents, such as the one time her father asked if she was gay and she denied it or her mother’s paranoia about potential anti-Semitism (“But would they hide you?” she asked of all Gold’s non-Jewish friends).
These autobiographical performances seem to be increasingly popular and but often veer into the self-indulgent (for example, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays), but Gold manages to avoid that pitfall and create a moving and engaging show. During the second half of the performance, Gold takes us through the various pitches for her show she made with different studios and producers who couldn’t understand the concept of a “manless” marriage or the lack of hot lesbian love scenes.
Unfortunately the play does not go very deeply into Gold’s life—she describes herself as an observant Jew and a lesbian, yet any stories of her grappling with her sexuality or dealing with it in high school or college are missing, as is any information about her faith. Gold ends with an impassioned plea for the legalization of gay marriage—it is one of the only serious parts of the whole production but it hits exactly the right tone and comes off as sincere and not self-righteous. The show kept me laughing the whole time, and even though the production is ending its run at (the truly terrific) Theater J, it is worth seeing on tour. And if Gold finally gets her own sitcom, I for one would watch it.