Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Tale of the Salesman

Whether we want to admit it or not, we strive to be our parents. We do it because we admire them. In Baba, Alex Mahgoub tells the story about the man that made him the person he is today. The hour-long solo piece covers everything from childhood to growing up awkwardly to dating to the life of a NYC real estate broker. And that is a lot for one show. While Baba, Mahgoub’s father, may have directly or indirectly influenced everything Mahgoub spoke about, specificity was missing. Mahgoub relied on context clues for the audience to pick up on pieces of his anecdotes. Had Mahgoub given us more about less, it might have allowed us to relate more. The other problem is Mahgoub has a showman persona on stage. He is a natural salesman and it hurt the piece. It's a case of "if you knew him, you wouldn't feel that," but Mahgoub was exceedingly showy which sadly came off as disingenuous. Ironically though, his storytelling was much stronger than his character work. Mahgoub knows how to shape a story, whether you buy it or not is the question.
To help Mahgoub on his journey, directorial consultant Christine Renee Miller focused on the emotions. And to Mahgoub and Miller's credit, they did acknowledge the library walls of Spectrum in a quick bit. When you got it, mock it!
Baba is a touching and personal story. It just needs a bit of tightening. Another workshop or two will help get it to the next level.