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Not your average Silverstein

It’s not long into “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein,” before it hits you that these are not the average childhood poems we all grew up loving, which include “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” “A Light in the Attic” and “The Giving Tree.”

Just as the title suggests, this play is an adults-only production. It is a sarcastic, vulgar and hilarious Silverstein that most of us have never seen.

Silverstein was a man of many hats: a poet, songwriter, author, cartoonist and even a playwright. As a playwright, Silverstein wrote a series of short skits, which had been compiled together and called “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein.”

Director Jamie Sweet deserves congratulations on a job well done for his production of “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” performed at The Garage Theatre in downtown Long Beach.

The Garage Theatre is a cozy venue founded by alumni of Cal State Long Beach. It’s not difficult to be fully engrossed when watching a production at this theatre. Cozy may just be an understatement. Probably holding no more than 60 people in the entire venue, the theatre is small, yet very charming. At arm’s length, one could touch the players on the stage.

Homemade and urban as it is, the theatre came well equipped with great lighting, refreshments and a talented cast.

Each scene had no more than a few characters on stage at a time and very few props, but it gave a sense of old-fashioned acting. There wasn’t a need for glitz and technological glamour because the scenes spoke for themselves.

Though some of the short stories had underlining and deeper contexts, most still incorporated the humor we know so well from Silverstein’s other works. However, this humor was raunchy, a bit dark, and even X-rated at times.

“Bus Stop” is full of shocking dialogue between two characters. It was a whole scene dedicated to using nicknames for the genitalia of the sexes. The chuckles rolled in with every sentence that actors Tito Ortiz and Liliana Frandsen said with little to no breaks for breath.

“The Life Boat is Sinking” proved to be one of the crowd’s favorites. The audience roared with laughter throughout the entire scene.
In the scene, a man lies in bed while his wife gives a dramatic performance of what would hypothetically happen if they had been trapped out at sea on their boat and the only way to survive was to throw one person overboard. There were four passengers on the boat: him, his wife, his child and his mother. The audience was nearly in tears as the wife prodded her husband to make a decision before it was too late and the waves, or rather the bed sheets, would crash over them killing them all. This skit was symbolic to the dreaded mother-in-law story with a hilarious twist.

“Wash and Dry,” also a standout of the night, gives “reading the fine print” a whole new meaning. A Laundromat owner gives his female customer a life lesson in paying close attention as he explains why he is watching her laundry instead of washing it and exposes her most private secrets. The audience is made aware that the sign states — in small print of course — that this Laundromat is a “Watch and Dry,” not a “Wash and Dry.”

“Buy One, Get One Free” came later in the evening and was one that most resembled the popular writing styles of Silverstein’s poems that we know and love. Instead of taking a flight in a giant shoe with Ickle Me Pickle Me and Tickle Me Too, however, this poetic dialogue was between two prostitutes coming up with a new economically-friendly way of handling business. This rap-like poem didn’t miss a beat as they talked about fetishes, whips, leathers and narcotics.

Overall, the production is a can’t miss performance. The cast gives an outstanding performance of the poet’s most hilarious work yet. For those of us who can remember the humorous poems of Silverstein from our past, we can now applaud and appreciate his work in our more mature years with the same teeth-grinning smile from comical hilarity.

The play runs until March 27, and is worth every minute of amusement that comes with it. The Garage Theatre is located at 251 E. 7th St.

 

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