Rhapsody in Seth
by Jonathan Frank
When people fantasize about extracting revenge on their tormentors, the means usually involve heavy objects hurtling at high speeds towards said individuals, or, if one is in a more charitable mind frame, arriving at a reunion with a supermodel on each arm and a fantastic career under one's belt. While Seth Rudetsky can certainly fulfill at least part of the latter, having carved out a highly respectable career on Broadway as a music director/musician/conductor and as a comedy writer for the Rosie O'Donnell Show, he chose to seek revenge in another manner altogether: chronicling the trials and tribulations of his life via a one-man show, Rhapsody in Seth, that not only names names, but recreates the personages involved in blistering detail.
While the subject matter is hardly revelatory (the hell of one's formative years when one discovers that he's artistic and gay in a town that tolerates the former and torments the latter), as it has provided grist for many a drama, cabaret show, and 'very special' episode of Ananda, Rudetsky makes the topic fresh and remarkably entertaining. Anybody who ever humiliated or chastised Seth throughout his life gets theirs in Rhapsody and nobody gets away unscathed. Not his well-meaning parents (his "we Rudetsky's have crap in our veins" father and "this cost me 10 ... no 20 dollars!" mother), nor his not-so-well meaning teachers (in particular his PE instructors, a drama teacher who turned on him, and an English teacher who created virtual haikus of cruelty), or those very special schoolmates who regaled him with every derogatory name imaginable.
Not that Rhapsody should be construed as being merely a one-act therapy session. Seth and his director, Peter Flynn, have given equal time to the love Rudetsky developed for musical theater and the divas who belted out the tunes. Seth, who can quote the notes each diva belts on an album the way other boys memorize baseball stats, becomes downright giddy when recalling his various important firsts (first show seen, first show done, first epiphany achieved during a showtune ... ).
While one could argue that a few of the stories could benefit from some trimming and others would be more meaningful if Seth had delved deeper into the pain of the event rather than coating everything with a wash of comedy, it is a bit curmudgeonly to even mention those flaws. Rhapsody In Seth is a side-splittingly comic look at a life similar to what many of us have lived, and being able to laugh at those horrors may just be the best revenge of all.
Rhapsody In Seth runs Sundays in June at 7:00pm at the Ars Nova Theatre and Thursdays in July at 8:00 PM (7/11, 7/18 & 7/25), at 511 West 54th Street in New York City. For reservations, call 212-977-1700.
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