We are not so far apart, from Mary Carpenter

About a year and a half ago my then 16 year old son and I found ourselves at home on a Friday night with nothing to do and no one to compete with for the TV. We decided to watch a movie and he said, “You pick.” Big risk for a 16 year old. I took a chance and put my favorite Billy Wilder DVD in, Some Like it Hot. In the Plus column: comedy, in the potential Minus column: old and in black and white; generally not big winners with current 16 year olds. When the first laugh came from the couch beside me, I felt relief, as the subsequent ones came I felt respect, not only for my son, but for the brilliant writing of Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond and Robert Thoeren. These are names which many Millennials may never have heard of, but their words and ingenuity are timeless and universal and the reason why Some Like it Hot is ranked as American Film Institute’s number one comedy of all time. When the movie was over my son immediately said, “I have to show that to my friends.”

How could a movie released 57 years earlier resonate so fully with a teenager bred on the immediacy of YouTube personalities and memes? Simple, good writing is good writing. Writing that trusts the audience and presents them with recognizable surprise, new takes on the experiences we have every day will stand the test of time. We recognize the players and the situations, but the lens through which they present it underlines a familiar and often universal experience in a surprising way. This is at the heart of A Few of Our Favorite Things, Jen Childs and Tony Braithwaite’s newest cabaret. Their chemistry, skill and talent are unstoppable; yet it is the content of their current adventure which is revelatory and innovative. There is a combination of classic material, re-invented interpretations, and original work held together by the common thread of Jen and Tony’s passion for the comic geniuses who laid the foundation for all we laugh at today.

Working with them on this show was a joy from start to finish. I love the process of bringing a show to life, whether as a director, writer or performer. Finding how the puzzle pieces fit together to find the story that needs to be told and the show that needs to be seen is fascinating. Such was the case with A Few of Our Favorite Things. We had a revised script every day, sometimes more than once. The order was rearranged, songs were cut and new ones added, intros were finessed and personalized until what emerged felt like the most authentic balance of vintage, original and reimagined. Jen, Tony and Owen were tireless in honing the details and making sure that each moment was true to the material and who they are as performers. They make it look effortless, but their dedication to every part of the show is unflagging because their sense of duty to the audience is absolute.

Jen and Tony are passionate about keeping the origins of comedy present and relevant today during a time when so many forces compete so rapidly for our attention. We can communicate across the world in a second with our phones, and watch entire seasons of TV shows on our way to work, and often choose to communicate a wealth of complexity and emotion with an emoji and a gif. The speed of convenience and satisfaction is astounding these days, and just as we have mastered and tired of Twitter, Snapchat is right there to pick up the slack until the next great new thing demands our devotion. Why on earth would we slow down to watch some comedy routines and songs from so many years ago in a dark room with strangers where we are asked to turn our phones off? Because in that moment when you recognize that of yourself or someone you love in the writing of someone from years ago performed by two geniuses of today and you laugh out loud at the same time as one, or ten or 100 others in that same room, you remember that we are not so far apart, that we all experience the same insecurities, setbacks and triumphs. And if we are not so far apart, well, the world certainly can’t that impossible to figure out.

And now back to my son’s classic comedy education. I think Bringing up Baby will be next.

(A Few of our Favorite Things plays for five performances only, February 14th thru 18th at Plays & Players Theatre. Get tickets and information here.)

Tony Braithwaite and Jennifer Childs in  A Few of Our Favorite Things . Photo by Bill D'Agostino.

Tony Braithwaite and Jennifer Childs in A Few of Our Favorite Things. Photo by Bill D'Agostino.