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Tiny Dancer

Ali Bernstein sends up the life of a young Jewish princess in PIT performance

By Cristina Merrill / Jester correspondent

Few things are better than a full hour of good comedy, especially when the comedian is Ali Bernstein.  The teeny-tiny 4-foot-10-inch funny gal performed “J.A.P.: A One-Woman Sketch Show” at The People’s Improv Theater on Nov. 5. Written and performed by Bernstein and directed by Joe Schiappa, “J.A.P.” is about an 11-year old Jewish girl from Long Island who enjoys poking fun at the different people in her life, from her ditzy older sister to her tennis counselor at sleepaway camp to her gambling grandmother.  Bernstein adeptly portrays each character, giving each one a unique personality and voice.  Such versatility on her part keeps the show interesting, making audience members look at her instead of glancing at their watches.

A voiceover introduces the skit, saying that in 1999 – when “Celine Dion was in and plaid was out”— a girl was born, one who would save everyone with her point of view. Enter Bernstein, wearing pink sweatpants, pink sneakers and a white T-shirt. With her left hand on her hip and her right hand constantly twirling her ponytail, Bernstein introduces herself as Lindsay, the most popular girl in bunk 3 at sleepaway camp. In a high pitched voice, she says that she has to talk really loud because she is the most popular, and that other girls are jealous because they are fat.  She explains that she is very good at impressions, and she starts off by impersonating one of the most important people in her life: the camp bus driver, Sam. Wearing a Yankees cap and a jean jacket and sporting an Indian accent, Bernstein portrays Sam as a man who came to the U.S. to join the Mickey Mouse Club and is obsessed with Billy Joel (“He has a song written for everything.”). 

Going back to playing Lindsay, Bernstein explains that she likes to smoke cigarettes without actually smoking them because “you can still get drunk.” She goes on to imitate Carrie Anne, her anxiety-ridden friend from Tennessee. Carrie Anne worries about guns in her house because her brother, she says, wants to kill her. “He’s 9,” she said. Back as Lindsay, Bernstein says that since Jews are not allowed in the South they should not be allowed in New England sleepaway camps. “But my counselor says that’s racist,” she said.

Bernstein’s Lindsay is especially good at imitating family members. She portrays her older sister as a spoiled young woman who cannot stop herself from texting her boyfriend during a job interview for a public relations position. “I’m like a PR slut,” she tells the interviewer. She is also funny when portraying her mother. She reenacts the speech her mother gave at her sister’s bat mitzvah. In this speech, her mother begs her older daughter to not become a slut in high school and get pregnant. “You can’t do me one favor and keep your legs closed?” she asks. “What?” she asks right after, not realizing the humiliation she has caused her daughter.      

Bernstein’s best impersonation was that of her tennis counselor at camp. Wearing a baseball cap and white shorts and sporting a deeper, more masculine country accent, Bernstein’s male counselor character talks to a trainee, explaining that the kids’ parents pay a “shitload” of money for them to be there. Therefore, the counselors cannot kill the children, although he threatens to several times. “Naked time is not till later,” he tells Jason, a young camper who cannot seem to keep his clothes on. Bernstein was excellent in this role and earned several well-deserved laughs from the audience. 

Bernstein is one of those few comedians who can hold an hour-long, one-person show and keep it interesting. Her versatility pays off, as she is able to play a range of characters and give them life. She is especially charismatic when she portrays Lindsay, and manages to make the character both annoying and charming. An hour-long, one-person show would be a drag with a lesser performer, but with Bernstein, the time flies.

 

   

     

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