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Off-Off-Broadway Review

Donna/Madonna

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Donna/Madonna
Photo Source: Aaron Bendele
Too many solo autobiographical plays, especially those about being gay or adopted, blame parents for what they did to our hero or heroine. Thus it's a joy to see writer-performer John Paul Karliak's 85-minute treatment of life with his two mothers, birth and adoptive, who already are, or become, okay with his being gay. This breezily insightful presentation celebrates what his two maternal parents did for him, not to him.

Karliak is appealing even when detailing his most angst-ridden moments (being half-Italian from both mothers, for him it's a lot of agita). The title may be a bit tortured: His adoptive mother is a quintessential mid-century housewife, like Donna Reed; his birth mother is more flamboyant, like Madge. The bursts of show tunes with revised lyrics constitute unnecessary anaphora and no one-man show this self-contained needs two directors. But Karliak neatly barrels through the frou-frou to get at the affecting core of his truth.
 
Presented by Rizzo 39 Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal St., NYC. Aug. 18–25. Remaining performances: Fri., Aug. 19, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 4:45 p.m.; Wed. Aug. 24, 9 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 25, 7 p.m. (866) 468-7619 or www.fringenyc.org.

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