Review: ‘Medicarefully Fabulous’

Wendy Westerwelle's Cult of Personality

A friend who’s an amateur rocket scientist once won a NASA drawing to go see a shuttle launch live, to which I said, “Oh my god, what are the odds that someone so perfect would win it?” Ever the scientist, he quickly explained, “selection bias.” All of the people who went to the effort to learn about and enter a NASA contest were exactly the kind of people who’d especially enjoy a shuttle launch. That’s how that works.

Wendy_Westerwelle

The same principle is at play over at Triangle Productions when Wendy Westerwelle gets a standing ovation for her comedic confessional about being a senior citizen battling food addiction and “CJPD: Chronic Jewish Personality Disorder.” She does a lovely job…and she draws the audience that’s most receptive to her humor: members of the congregation at Temple Beth Israel, customers from her Multnomah Village apparel store, peers familiar with the veteran local actor’s work in the Portland theater scene. She’s getting guffaws, from a room full of rocket scientists.

That’s not to undersell a show which, even for the uninitiated, has its moments. It’s a cavalcade of fully-costumed character work where evidently no imitation is off-limits. Her Asian manicurist parody is actually one of her best…no, don’t stop reading. Her accent and manner is studied and realistic, and she wisely uses the character to insult herself, Wendy, by pointing out all of her own unsightly hairs, age spots, and wrinkles in the guise of third-party customer service. Back on safer turf, she does great impressions of her older Jewish family members, especially “Aunt Golda,” a shameless dynamo who dishes about her misadventures with Viagra and her Portland sightseeing efforts before advising Westerwelle on how to grow old…if not gracefully, at least vivaciously.

Less impressive are Westerwelle’s Dolly Parton and Rappin’ Granny efforts—particularly the latter. Rappin’ Granny is a trope that I’d love to see done well for once, but it probably won’t happen until the children of the ’80’s who are currently killing it in Ketten Karaoke reach a ripe old age. To Westerwelle’s credit, she brings a can-do attitude, but the Rapper’s Delight cadence and dog-hump dancing are tragically par for the form. Even so, the crowd—elated by her moxie—goes wild. Hey, you can’t complain about a show that does so directly what it says on the tin, with even the press releases written in the character of Aunt Golda. “OY! FABULOUS NEWS!” announced one subject line. And it is—for everyone who loves Jewish Aunt humor.

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A. L. Adams also writes the monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly magazine. Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch | The Portland Mercury
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