A REPRINT FROM THE
REVIEW by Craig Smith
Take a big helping of American Jewish angst. Fold in a Brooklynese sense of place. Add anecdotes of interaction with the stars. Frost with a soupcon of Catskill comic shtick. The result: Cake maven Cliff Simon's comic monologue Simon Says, which had a full house in stitches Friday evening at Santa Fe Playhouse.
Simon has based the show on some pretty unbelievable events in his own life. In fact, it's hard to believe they're all true - but he's got gorgeous cake color slides to prove it, shown in clever counterpoint to the chatter. This man has led anything but a quiet existence.
Feverishly making - Diana Ross a towering wedding cake in a Swiss hotel. Creating a perfect cake imitation of a Faberge Imperial egg for Malcolm Forbes, then getting it from New York City to California by plane. The infamous "arthritic fingers" cake, complete with diamond ring, refused by a miffed jeweler client.
The chopped walnuts that rescued a cake for Leona Helmsley's bodyguard. The many cakes Simon made for Liberace at Radio City, and the time he stroked the pianist's hair in wonder at the glitter in it. (He lived to tell the tale.)
My favorite: The golden anniversary cake 7 feet high for a millionaire Long Island Jewish couple who had the Rockettes for party entertainment. The lady paid for the cake in cash, and insisted he count it right there - all $10,000 of it.
Then there's Cliff's ever-loving mother, Lil. As he said, she made him what he is today - so what if she dragged people aside at a family funeral to show snaps of Miss Ross' wedding cake and whisper, "My son made this!"
At root, Simon Says is a funny work yet in progress. The cake memories are well-paced, but most of them are drawn from the self-published They Ate My Cake, and the transition from written to spoken voice could be better handled at times.
And the segue into the monologue close, which tells of Simon's recent nerve-wracking traversal of the medical system, is as yet too studied, the change from general light-heartedness to looming doom too abrupt.
But Simon well understands that great comedy is essentially serious, and so this show has potential to be much more than a pleasant 90 minutes of laughter, near-tears and confession.
With a bit more seasoning and time in the creative oven, it will become a superlative turn of moving, bittersweet solo banter.