NEW YORK. Al Theobald is not unlike many other 55-year olds he knows. “I’m average height, losing my hair, not losing any weight,” he says with a chuckle. “But I’m different from your typical white-bread suburban middle-aged male in that I have a dream,” he says, his voice growing wistful. The vision that holds him in thrall? “I told myself before I died,” he says breathlessly, “I’d make it to Broadway.”
And so he did this past Monday night for the first of possibly few stagings of his one-man show “Blurbs From the Burbs!” a review of his life to date. He’s back at it tonight even though opening night reviews were mixed.
“For a one-man show to succeed it must be based on a compelling personality who tells a great story,” says critic Colin Firth of the Manhattan Theatre Review. “This guy Al What’s-his-name . . . how do I put this diplomatically . . . is a crashing bore.”
Came into town on the train.
Theobald admits as much, and is unapologetic about it. “I’m my own producer,” he says with an edge in his voice as he watches Firth leave the theatre after the matinee. “It’s my goddamn show and I’ll put in and leave out what I please.”
And so Theobald recounts the story of his uninterrupted 25-year marriage to his wife, some anecdotes about their kids growing up and other scenes that resonate with an audience made up almost exclusively of other suburban couples, a demographic that comprises a large percentage of Broadway theatregoers.
“The plot is familiar . . .”
“I figure–why give them some gritty urban drama or ‘hip-hop’ musical that’s only going to upset their stomachs and make the long drive back to New Rochelle miserable?” he says. “Let them think about something they’ve got to look forward to when they get home.”
That something? “Monogamistic sex within marriage,” Theobald says to this reporter with a leer. “That’s what I’m talking about.”
The theme is virtually taboo in the theatre because it offers so few possibilities for dramatic development. “I don’t see my company taking on such a low-risk proposition,” says Steven Smyrna, a highly-regarded young director whose most recent production is a staging of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” using chia pets for actors. “We’re always trying to push the envelope, break down walls, and stir up the drink, if I may mix my metaphors.”
Edgy stuff . . . and you don’t have to pay scale!
But Theobald clearly has no use for the avant garde as he waits for the pit orchestra to strike up the rousing closing number, “I Like to Have Sex With My Wife.” “You bohemian guys with your pony tails,” he begins to sing
Your earrings and tattoos.
Think you’ve cornered the market on romance—
Well I’ve got news for you.
There are a few glances of recognition in the audience, and couples wink and nudge each other as the theme of the song unfolds:
My wife and I may look like nerds—
White bread suburbanites.
But I give her all the love she needs
When we turn out the lights . . .
Soon the audience is clapping along, slightly off the beat as is customarily the case when a theatre full of arhythmic honky putzes tries to engage in communal rhythm.
When grey skies refuse to clear up
I dream of blue skies above.
But when I get tense and nervous from work—
What I need is red hot love.
It’s the antidote to a day of stress and strife
So I like—to have sex with my wife!
By now a few couples who had picked up their coats and started to leave have sat back down again as they get in the spirit of things, and Theobald has them in the palm of his hands as he sings of resisting one of the few temptations that falls in his way:
You can fool around all over town
You can hit on your kids’ au pair.
But me I don’t go for that kind of love
Way down deep, I’m a square.
“Maybe this will play in the suburban dinner theatres,” sniffs Smyrna, who appears to be miffed at the rousing reception a straightforward play based on normalcy receives after his last three plays closed leaving investors with big losses. “But God I hope this isn’t the end of experimental theatre as we know it!”
“We want to see it again!”
Theobald’s experiment is working out just fine as he hits the final “bridge” of his song, a paean to what he calls “the glue that stirs the drink of the American middle class.”
Monogamy works fine by me–
It’s the perfect situation;
You sleep with your wife, I’ll sleep with mine
It’s the foundation of civilization!
By now the audience is on its feet, in position to give the show a standing ovation even before its done as Theobald sings frankly and passionately about who he is:
If I choose to have a petit bourgeois life—
It’s cause I like—to have sex with my wife!