My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy
It may have taken nearly three decades, but Brad Zimmerman finally has found his life’s calling as a comedic actor and showcases his talent beautifully in his one-man show, “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy.”
Zimmerman regales us with tales of his woes: a stereotypical Jewish mother who sees him as a failure, a monotonous life as a waiter for 29 years that barely affords him rent money, and years of being alone because no one will date him.
Unlike most struggling actors who find some acting parts or go home within a few years, too scared to audition, Zimmerman took acting classes for more than a decade and then continued working as a surly waiter until he was nearly 50. When customers yelled, “Waiter!,” he shot back, “Customer!”
He sunk into depression. His therapist said he had to go for his dream. Still too scared to audition, he took a class in writing and performing standup comedy, got good at it and ended up as the opening act for George Carlin and Joan Rivers.
In his one-man show — which ran on the New York stage in 2014 for nearly five months — he melds his standup alongside of his life’s tragedies. He takes us back to his days as a child superstar athlete and to nearly 40 years later when he is a failed actor who randomly calls his father for money. He shares his feelings about celebrity athletes and reality TV stars, his mother who constantly compares his life to the grown children of her friends who have sold their businesses and become rich, and his diet that has given him high cholesterol. Zimmerman excels at talking to and connecting with the audience while transforming himself into numerous characters: an athlete who dances a minute-long swish and sway as if he’d just made a touchdown, a stereotypical old Jewish woman who can’t decide what dish to order and a loudmouth braggart who shouts into her cell phone about her life of riches.
If you’re Jewish or know many Jewish people, or if you’ve ever struggled for years or dreamed of doing the near impossible, you’ll certainly relate to his comedic tales. For minutes on end, we are pulled into his life and are rooting for him. There he is, like Spalding Gray and Eric Bogosian before him, enveloping us into his life story, but standing up and acting scenes out, from as far back as when he was an adolescent at Camp Akiba before his was bar mitzvahed.
But all is not perfect. As a script writer, Zimmerman fails to seamlessly blend his comedic act into his storyline. We feel connected to his life’s story but then are pulled out of it, and are left wondering, “Are you now doing a standup comedy routine rather than continuing the story of your life?” Either way as a storyteller or comic, he’s funny, and his show is worth seeing. Zimmerman has found his just desserts and goes home each night with his biggest tip yet: he’s now an employed stage and TV actor.
Written and directed by Brad Zimmerman, “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” runs through June 18 at 7 Stages.