Review: Left Hander in London and The Get Happy Hour with Judy
A World Pride Double Bill Takes the Stage at the Revival Bar
The double bill Left Hander in London: The Earthquake and The Get Happy Hour with Judy at the Revival Bar are two very different performances with a lot to unpack. One is an examination of the significance of diversity, while the other is about the joy of celebrity nostalgia.
JJ Marie Gufreda’s one-woman show, Left Hander in London, adapted from her recently-published book of the same title, tells the story of her experiences before and after transitioning from male to female. Written as a monologue that flits through anecdotes, humorous musings, music, and personal philosophies, Left Hander is a play with a lot to say.
One particular weakness in Left Hander is that it often meandered, wandering from point to point with some punch lines going for a bit too long. While I think the groundwork exists for something much more cohesive, I felt there needed to be more focus in the overall structure of the monologue that could have helped her jokes—and there were many—land better.
Case in point: Gufreda’s music and reworking of music was clever and could easily have been its own show. It summed up the point of her work while letting her encourage audience participation through a sing-a-long.
It is important to note that Gufreda was disadvantaged during this premiere. Her off-the-cuff style on her opening night fell on a two member audience that consisted of a theatre critic and the theatre critic’s friend. With so few people to play off I think the show fell a bit flat. This is not a criticism but rather a fact that there is a lot in Left Hander waiting to be unleashed that I did not have the opportunity to see, but occasionally glimpsed.
Happy Hour with Judy (starring Kimberly Roberts and directed by Sarah Strance) was focused on rediscovering the reason fans love Judy Garland: her heart, not her personal struggles with addiction. Opening with Roberts debating the truth of Judy Garland with a bartender (Jamie Johnson), the show quickly jumps to the show’s main premise: Roberts, as Judy Garland, reminiscing through song about her life.
If Gufreda’s Left Hander was about reaching a larger audience to talk about diversity, The Get Happy Hour with Judy was about a specific audience’s relationship to the idea of Judy Garland. If you are not really familiar with Judy Garland, you will likely be left with little to enjoy in the show. Admittedly, I’m no Garland fan, but The Get Happy Hour suffered in the specificity of the subject. Roberts was clearly enjoying herself, as were some keen fans in the audience, but as someone who only recognizes Garland from The Wizard of Oz, I was not part of the crowd. Even my friend (a Garland fan) felt a bit isolated from the performance.
Who is Judy Garland? Why is her celebrity status so important to us? What is the connection between Roberts and Garland that makes her want to play this role? And what were some of the songs referencing?
Furthermore, The Get Happy Hour had some technical trouble that was difficult to ignore. Roberts, for all her energy, spoke very softly and both my friend and I strained to hear her impressive Garland impression. The nature of The Get Happy Hour depends not only on Roberts’s voice but also seamless audio for lip-syncing. Between songs starting suddenly and the iTunes screen projected awkwardly over the stage, I was distracted.
That said, both shows gave my friend and I something to talk about. We left the Revival discussing what we looked for in a show and my friend suggested it was heart. I think that is the best summary I can give for both Left Hander in London: The Earthquake and The Get Happy Hour with Judy: they are both labors of love. And what else do you really need from a show beyond a little heart?
- Left Hander in London: The Earthquake and The Get Happy Hour with Judy plays at the Revival Bar (783 College Street)
- Left Hander in London: The Earthquake plays June 25th at 6pm and 9pm; The Get Happy Hour with Judy plays June 25th 7:15pm and 10:15pm
- Tickets cost between $15-$25 at the door; tickets can also be purchased online here
Poster of Left Hander in London: The Earthquake provided by the company; photo of Kimberly Roberts by Maylynn Quann.