Slate at Play
SNL newbie takes chances that the institution
doesn't in her live solo showcase.
Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate got to show off all the
kinds of material that Lorne Michaels never lets see the light of day in
her live solo show, “Jenny Slate: Dead Millionaire,” seen at the UCB
Theatre on January 21.
For a show that was just over a half hour, it took a few minutes for
an audience to adjust to Slate and director John Flynn’s rapid shifts
between on stage characters and a clever multi-framed and multi-faceted
video that tied everything together for the show’s story. But once the
show got rolling, Slate unveiled characters that definitely could have
stood side by side with those of SNL’s original incarnation.
Character showcases like this usually need some reason for being,
however nominal, and “Dead Millionaire” revolved around people who would
have eulogized its star, had she become an eccentric Leona Helmsley-like
millionaire. Out of all of these, Slate’s best characters were “Ruth
Diamond Phillips,” an inhibited, repressed lawyer charged with
administering the service and the will; and Gina, a blind girl portrayed
unsympathetically to say the least.
Ruth recalls something Gilda Radner might have done. And Gina, whom
Slate, in the videos between her live on stage appearances as the
characters, states flat out is “dumb,” channels the lack of
comprehension John Belushi’s foreign man taking a language class had in
the very first SNL sketch ever, where he imitates Michael O’Donoghue
having a heart attack. Told she’s inheriting Slate’s dog, she feels
around the pet (Slate’s real-life dog plays this part on stage) and
repeatedly proclaims “Oh, it’s a cat!” It’s delightfully sick humor that
takes the kind of risks that today’s SNL should be taking.
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