NY Theater Review By Eric J. Grimm
At United Solo Fest, Nancy Redman is presenting another collaboration with director Austin Pendleton after the successful shows Clutter: I’m Saving My Life and It’s Killing Me and Emergency a la Carte. The new show, The Doctor Is Not In, finds Redman navigating through a world where all doctors have been replaced by clones. Her take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers presents boundless opportunities for irony about the inefficiency of the American medical system and Redman touches on this in some clever, imaginative bits. The whole project, however, never quite coheres as she finds herself lost in the potential of her narrative.
Redman begins by describing a visit to the doctor to assess her restless leg syndrome. The doctor barely acknowledges her and responds to her questions in monotone. What could simply be another case of poor physician communication is actually part of an alien takeover that has started with medical professionals. Redman could take the joke further than she does, though she does get a few laughs out of her miscommunication with her doctors. In a more elaborate scenario, she struggles to get a wound treated when emergency rooms merge with fast food restaurants.
Her misadventures lead her to an unlikely gig at The Tonight Show, with guest host Joan Rivers. Redman does a decent impersonation of Rivers and addresses the awkwardness of her presence shortly after Rivers’ death last month, though the bit falls flat when Redman keeps it going too long. Her routine at The Tonight Show is made up of material that she has used repeatedly in the past, though it is, undoubtedly, hilarious stuff and serves as a high point in the show.
Redman often seems like she’s lost her place in the performance, which is a shame, because she has the foundation for a tight and funny work of meta science fiction. She could use a little more direction from Pendleton in bringing all of the elements together and making The Doctor Is Not In more of an opportunity for humorous storytelling as opposed to a collection of musings from Redman’s career as a comedian. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge Redman’s total physical commitment. By the end of the show, she had trouble standing up straight after her high energy stand-up. My quibbles about the narrative were clearly not an issue for the audience who stood for her as they applauded.
Nancy Redman’s The Doctor Is In will play an encore at Theatre Row (410 W. 42nd St.) on November 15th. For tickets, visit https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/United-Solo-Theatre-Festival/Overview?&aid=ven000193900.