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A CurtainUp Review
Sandra Bernhard: Everything Bad and Beautiful

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down
So don't you bring me down today

---Sandra Bernhard,
not exactly channeling Christina Aguilera,
singing Linda Perry's song
Sandra Bernhard with "The Rebellious Jezebels"
S. Bernhard with "The Rebellious Jezebels"
(Photo: Paul Kolnik)

If the idea of washing down a plate of cholent with a Coors Light doesn't strike you as funny, you may never get Sandra Bernhard. If you don't know what cholent is, you'll be furrowing your eyebrows occasionally during this show but don't give up hope -- as long as you are familiar with, but properly repulsed by, every trashy celebrity held in reverence by Entertainment Tonight.

Yes, these are among the trials and tribulations that brand Ms. Bernhard as the singer/comic/pundit that she is. For those who have experienced her act before (see link to our review of her Broadway show below), the cadence and wickedly sardonic humor of her act -- and even the pseudo-Middle Eastern decoration -- are back in force. She is one of the best integraters of comedy and rock and roll around, and it doesn't get much better than the send-up of "Beautiful" that gets things started and sets the tone with a mock seriousness that mocks itself.

Along the way, Bernhard will find time to weigh in on Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, et al. Attention must also be paid to politics, of course, and she has choice words for the Bushes, Lynne Cheney and, most trenchantly, Condoleezza Rice (by way of a seance of sorts with Rosa Parks).

Some of the material is spot-on, while other sections have a shopworn quality. This show arrives in New York from a run in Los Angeles, and was no doubt built during various smaller gigs before that. At times, it shows. And then there are the obligatory subjects: Sandra's girlfriend and daughter -- not especially interesting -- and the nods to being in New York -- references to Julia Roberts and to the show's Union Square neighbor, Slava's Snowshow, both of which come up empty. The show is short on songs -- there are just over a handful -- which is a shame because they frame her best work. Not to mention that she has a kick-ass band that most in the audience wouldn't have minded hearing a little more from.

What's most impressive here is the way Bernhard has learned to shift gears. A clever piece on podiatrists (they used to be called chiropodists, she observes) somehow segues into a discussion of a phone call from Bob Dylan. Less surprising is that this in turn leads to her singing "Like a Rolling Stone" -- one of her best musical efforts of the evening. Her discussion of Celine Dion is paired with that of Anne Geddes. And her obvious disdain for some of her own parents' child-rearing skills takes on new meaning as she talks about her own. Family life, religion and a high comfort level with her own sexuality have changed what she cares about (she has cancelled performances on the days of the Passover Seders), and yet it seems clear it hasn't changed her all that much -- she's still the self-conscious bad girl she always was.

Bernhard's I'm Still Here ... Damn It!

Sandra Bernhard: Everything Bad and Beautiful
written and performed by Sandra Bernhard
Musical Director: LaFrae Sci
with The Rebellious Jezebels
Set Design: David Swayze
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Walter Trarbach and Tony Smolenski IV
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes with no intermission
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street (@Union Square east)
Telephone (212) 239-6200
3/29/06 to 6/25/06; opening 4/05/06
TUE - FRI @8, SAT - SUN @7, SAT @10 (added perfs 4/10 and 4/17 @8, no perfs 4/6, 4/12-13 or 4/23); $35 - $70
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 4/3/06 performance
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©2006  Elyse Sommer.