A mix between stand-up comedy show and play (it’s billed as a “plomedy”), Shut Up, Sit Down and Eat has charm, wit, laugh-out-loud humor, and a few touching, “aw”-worthy moments as well.
Four Italian Americans—three men and a woman—sit in a waiting room for a group therapy session. The only problem is, it becomes clear the shrink isn’t showing up. Instead, these four strangers trade memories and stories in their own hysterical form of therapy.
The comedy is based on a shared Italian-American experience. The three men continually bless themselves at the mention of Sinatra, bicker over the proper terminology for sauce vs. gravy, and make some off-color jokes about zeppoles. Nonetheless, non-Italians are sure to find the show wholly relatable as well, as it touches on universal themes like family, death, marriage, and sex.
The cast of four features comedians Tina Giorgi, Joe Moffa, Chris Monty, and Eric Tartaglione. These talented individuals, along with Tom Ingegno, also wrote the script. Giorgi, Moffa, Monty, and Tartaglione each bring their own style to the show, and none overshadows the others thanks to skillful directing by Eve Brandstein.
Each actor plays a character with the same name, raising the question of just how much truth lies in these vignettes. Tina Giorgi, the lone female, is fascinated by the psychological terminology in her book. Married to a Southerner, she feels utterly trapped between the two different worlds inhabited by her and her husband’s families. Giorgi delivers the most moving monologue of the production, though she is also capable of deadpanning about sperm and turkey basters at another point in the show.
The divorced Moffa recently lost his job and now must contemplate the ways of hanging himself in a basement apartment with six-foot ceilings (taping his ankles to his ass, naturally). He may be able to joke about it, but it becomes evident that he’s truly hurting—especially because of the strained relationship with his daughter, which he is at a loss to salvage.
Monty still lives at home with his parents and grandmother, but is sick of being treated like a child. He has met a girl he cares about, despite the fact that she’s Polish, so what’s stopping him from moving out and moving on with his life? Perhaps it’s the fact that his grandmother makes him great biscotti.
Tartaglione is perhaps the funniest of the four, conjuring thoughts of Danny DeVito. But, as with the rest of his castmates, Tartaglione has an impressive ability to transition seamlessly from vulgar jokes to heartfelt confessions. He is married to a woman who drives him crazy. But who isn’t driven crazy every now and then by a significant other? What really makes his performance memorable is his love for his adopted daughter, who took his last name and decided to keep it when she got engaged.
The production’s lighting subtly distinguishes the play’s action is it moves from the private thoughts of the characters to a series of individual short monologues that range from tear-jerking to gut-busting.
An intimate space lends itself to this type of show, but the sound of other productions could be heard through the Snapple Theater’s thin walls. It was an unfortunate and sometimes frustrating distraction.
Shut Up, Sit Down and Eat offers more than a few cheap mafia jokes. Audiences catch a glimpse into the relatable lives of four complex individuals—with with a countless number of hopes, fears, dreams, regrets and, most important, jokes.
Performances of Shut Up, Sit Down and Eat are Sundays at 5:15 p.m. through the end of December at the Snappple Theater Center, 1627 Broadway. The run is open-ended; tickets may be purchased here.