LIVE: Kathleen Madigan @ the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 4/3/11

She may only be 5’1”, but pray you do not find yourself in the sights of Kathleen Madigan. For 80 minutes on Sunday evening, she comfortably commanded the stage and with her wit and sarcasm shredded anything and everything she found worthy of her interest.

Starting with a hilarious recounting of her recent USO tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, she had a lot of opinions about our involvement there, but they weren’t necessarily related to any particular political convictions. Should we be in Iraq? “The base in Baghdad has a Taco Bell; I think we can declare victory.” Should we be in Afganistan? “The women dress like bee keepers; the men think it’s the year 11. No wonder the Russians ran away.” How much money it would take to fix Afghanistan? “How much money would it take to fix the moon?”

Her midwestern family of nine was a running theme throughout her act. They are a close knit group, after all who couldn’t love a father who “instructed us on how to commit suicide so the insurance company would pay the claim. Whatever you do, don’t write a note.” Her stockbroker brother is always giving her advice on how to save her money, which she lamely attempts to follow, but is too easily sabotaged by “a late night, a bottle of wine and an eBay password.”

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Madigan didn’t have any apparent agenda as she moved through her adventures playing a cruise ship with Lewis Black, immigration, geography – “Canada, you forget it’s up there” – Nancy Grace, CNN and politics – “I support Madeline Albright for president – she’s smart, experienced and already looks like George Washington.”

Actually, she did have a slight agenda to defend her pleasure in smoking. In response to a smug anti-smoking fan in Los Angeles, she told him, “When the big earthquake hits – and it’s gonna hit – I’ll be OK ’cause I’ll be outside smoking a cigarette.” Smoke away, sister girl!

Having paid her dues with more than 20 years of touring, Kathleen Madigan is a tough pro who makes it look oh-so easy. She finished her act and walked off stage to rousing applause amid the confetti and detritus of her demolished targets.

Jason Dudey opened the show with a strong 20 minutes that grabbed the audience right from the start. A running gag concerned the pronunciation of his last name (“do-dee”), which caused him and his siblings endless grief as children. To avoid the embarrassment, “My sister got married at 12. In South Carolina, they don’t even laugh at that, they wonder why she waited so long.” He is openly gay and worked that quite effectively. “I don’t do hair. I don’t decorate. I drive a pickup, use power tools and wear Birkenstocks. I’m actually a lesbian.” His parents are an annoyance for him, too, especially his mother’s baffling reason for not returning his emails – “I didn’t send them to you because you are not home.”

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is a lovingly restored vaudeville theater in downtown Great Barrington. It’s charming, comfortable and intimate. In the basement is a display of photos and posters that traces the history of the theater from its opening on September 26, 1905, through performances by early luminaries such as John Philip Sousa, vaudeville revues, a period as a funky movie house and finally its recent restoration. It’s worth the drive just for this slice of show biz history in the Berkshires.

Review by Bowtie, Senior Comedy Correspondent

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