Hu­mor for ma­ture tastes

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mar­garet Gray cal­en­dar@la­times.com

Annabelle Gur­witch’s “I See You Made an Ef­fort” of­fers laughs for “women of a cer­tain age.”

“When you slip on a ba­nana peel, peo­ple laugh at you. But when you tell peo­ple you slipped on a ba­nana peel, it’s your laugh,” the late Nora Ephron once wrote, neatly sum­ming up the power of self-dep­re­cat­ing com­edy.

The voice Ephron de­vel­oped in her es­says — hon­est, acer­bic, sweetly sub­ver­sive — echoes through­out women’s writ­ing to­day. The actress and writer Annabelle Gur­witch’s book “I See You Made an Ef­fort,” on the in­dig­ni­ties of turn­ing 50, is a kind of ju­nior var­sity ver­sion of Ephron’s book “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” on the in­dig­ni­ties of be­ing 65. And th­ese are just two of the voices speak­ing openly th­ese days about menopause, a topic once cloaked in shame.

So it’s not sur­pris­ing that the sub­ject mat­ter and hu­mor of Gur­witch’s one-woman show based on “I See You Made an Ef­fort,” now at Sky­light Theatre, feel familiar.

Gur­witch is a mem­ber of the “sand­wich gen­er­a­tion,” adults car­ing for teenage chil­dren and el­derly par­ents while con­tend­ing with their own in­cip­i­ent de­crepi­tude, AARP mail­ings, Eileen Fisher cloth­ing and sex­ual ir­rel­e­vance. Or as she pithily puts it, “My son has an ex­cess of hor­mones, and I don’t have any.”

Gur­witch, a lively and charm­ing in­ter­locu­tor, class­ily dressed in a silk blouse and slim black pants (she says she looks like a “plain­clothes de­tec­tive”; she looks adorable), ad­dresses the au­di­ence from a black box set fea­tur­ing a sin­gle wooden chair and clever screen pro­jec­tions by Ja­son H. Thomp­son. She tells a story, with many tan­gents, about at­tend­ing a punk-rock con­cert with her 14-year-old son.

The risks of such a show are that any­body who isn’t a menopausal woman will be un­moved by the hu­mor, while the menopausal women will have heard it be­fore or, if not, be plunged into de­spair by this bleak vi­sion of their fate.

Direc­tor Bart DeLorenzo (Gur­witch was in his de­li­cious pro­duc­tion of Don­ald Mar­gulies’ “Coney Is­land Christ­mas” at the Gef­fen Play­house in 2012) can’t en­tirely avoid th­ese dan­gers, but he keeps the tone light and the pace brisk and more im­por­tantly, high­lights the dis­tinc­tive notes in Gur­witch’s gen­er­a­tional lamen­ta­tion.

The Ephron sis­ters dissed Eileen Fisher years ago (“You know you have fi­nally given up when you go to Eileen Fisher,” they wrote in “Love, Loss and What I Wore”), so when Gur­witch says women wear­ing Eileen Fisher re­sem­ble “el­der states­men in a sci-fi movie about a dystopian fu­ture,” she’s not break­ing new ground. But her video par­ody of a scarf-ty­ing tu­to­rial from the Eileen Fisher web­site is fresh and funny.

Sim­i­larly, her best jokes are the quirki­est, least generic; she has a dry take on the chal­lenges of our dig­i­tal cul­ture. “What is my son do­ing out­side?” she asks at one point in her story. “He must have made it to the end of the In­ter­net.” If much of her ma­te­rial feels re­cy­cled, over­worked and thin, she still of­fers us “women of a cer­tain age” some laughs on the slog to­ward our in­evitable ob­so­les­cence.

Ed Krieger

ANNABELLE GUR­WITCH per­forms her one-woman show, “I See You Made an Ef­fort,” in Los Feliz.

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