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In Their Own Words

Celebrity Autobiography fine-tunes its satire of the least-accomplished memoirs.

Kristen Johnson reads at a recent performance.

A long-running series in both New York and Los Angeles, Celebrity Autobiography is revving up another New York run at the Triad Theater on the Upper West Side. Seen February 25, the show features an eclectic mix of SNL players (former and current) and New York theater and film fixtures, reading a repertoire of preposterous and self-absorbed B-list celebrity bios.

A few autobiographies seem to be staples of the show, like Mr. T, Vanna White, Marilu Henner and Burt Reynolds, with varying success. The newest personality with an autobiography read in this performance was Star Jones.

The matches of performer and autobiography met with varied degrees of success, all within the same show. The most effective pairings were Richard Kind reading Vanna White and Claudia Shear reading Ivana Trump, although show creator Eugene Pack also had lots of fun with Neil Sedakaís recitation of his dietary habits, and Rachel Dratch played up the cluelessness of former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden quite nicely.

Kind energetically punctuated each point White made about the routine of being the Wheel of Fortune letter turner, ever more loudly as though it were the account of a battle in a war. And Shear captured the haughtiness of Ivana Trump and her utter conviction in absurd opinions, such as field hockey not being a good sport for girls and ducks making excellent pets.

On this night, Celebrity Autobiography climaxed with two tour de force reads featuring multiple performers taking turns reading dialogue from three or four related biographies all at once, like Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson and those of Burtís assistant and Loniís other lover; as well as the biographies chronicling the love triangle of Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (and Fisherís jilted wife, Debbie Reynolds).

In the first of these tabloid sagas, Michael McKean delivered deadpan some of the best Burt Reynolds passages in the melodrama of his time with Loni Anderson -- while Kristen Johnson relished Loniís lines. Dratch proved a perfect counterpoint reading the autobiography of Burtís assistant (yes, a publisher apparently actually printed that). And in the second, Kind had the perfect vehicle for declarations rising in volume as none other than Richard Burton, who exclaims of poor Eddie Fisher, ďIíll fuck him myself!Ē

As you can see, Celebrity Autobiography is clearly a very entertaining evening, with lots of laughs to be had, particularly because of how some of its best matches of cast and material play out, as they deftly inflate or underplay some of the egotistical absurdities of the source (ahem) literature.

Celebrity Autobiography runs Mondays through March 24. 



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