Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of An Appetizing Yarn at The Secret Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Andrew Martin's An Appetizing Yarn at The Secret Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

An Appetizing Yarn
Written & Performed by Andrew Martin
Directed by Dennis Gleason
The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, New York 11101
Reviewed 8/23/15 

An Appetizing Yarn was billed as being an autobiographical tale of the life of Andrew Martin until age twenty-one. The clever title refers to the fact we are promised an interesting story but "yarn" here had a secondary meaning in that the advertised unique feature of this play was that the performer would "knit a woolen hat right in front of the audience's eyes, which at the end of the action would be raffled off for one lucky spectator to take home as a door prize." The script was written and memorized. The time it took to knit the hat was double checked. Money was raised for the fee required to enter this one-man show in the UNFringed Festival 2015, and the running time was ultimately announced - 90 minutes with a ten-minute intermission.

I was very eager to see this show because Andrew Martin is a talented, animated and colorful storyteller. However, early reports from the author regarding his opening night performance were not promising. He posted on Facebook, in part, "there were times I had to backtrack because I'd suddenly realize I'd forgotten some important things. I didn't even get to do the part about the spelling bees because I completely jumped it...I had to stop midway through the second act because by that time I'd been on stage for well over two hours and still had to accommodate the Q & A and the raffle and the final monologue about the psychic, so it really ended there and shouldn't have). I'm also gonna have to partially have the hat knitted before I get to the theater because I got so caught up in the talking that there wasn't time to knit properly...By my standards, it was substandard, but I think I did decently." It was also reported that the programs were not going to be ready on time but that due to the delay, he'd be getting them for free. Those programs never made it to any show. All the audience members received was a one-page flyer. 

By the last show, the one I saw, his autobiographical tale ended by the time he turned eighteen (instead of continuing on to age twenty-one) and there was no mention at all (as the flyer promised) of his "rubbing shoulders with Andy Warhol superstars, or finding himself an overnight sensation in the world of cabaret and piano bars." There was also no mention of why and when he took on the stage name "Andrew Martin," what his legal birth name was, why he didn't go to college or graduate school as his siblings did, and whether he ever worked for a living. These were glaring omissions left out of the script for unknown reasons. 

Andrew Martin appeared on stage wearing a Mike Piazza Mets Jersey, black leather pants, and black sneakers while carrying a green Harrods shopping bag, sunglasses, and water. He used a loom to knit his hat instead of needles. He spent a lot of time talking about the life of his parents and grandmothers before he arrived on the scene. None of those stories was particularly interesting, but I have to give him credit for being able to tell the most mundane tale with extraordinary enthusiasm. We learned that both his grandmothers couldn't really cook, that his father worked in a grocery store and kept the first nickel he earned, that his parents were married at Hillside House in Hollis, that his father grew up in a tenement below Delancey Street, and that his mother grew up better off in a semi-attached home in Forest Hills. Eventually, we get to the place in the story where he was born. He has one brother and one twin sister, who he doesn't always get along with. In addition, both his parents, although living, were unable to make it out to catch his show.

As a child, Andrew Martin had a fever but he was fine without requiring hospitalization. At 9 years of age, his parents separated (During Q & A, he admitted he liked guys by age 4 but didn't know what it was all about until he was 10). His most interesting story involved his joining the Boy Scouts in one last ditch effort to impress his father to show him he could do "guy things." He was an eager Tenderfoot intent on earning his cooking badge so he volunteered for everything including a hike that was required for him to advance. One night, an Assistant Scoutmaster ended up naked in his sleeping bag and placed his hand down his shorts. He says he didn't like it but neither did he fight him off. The scoutmaster told him not to tell because people would just think he was "being funny" or was "a liar." Andrew quit the Scouts and never told anyone what happened for five years. 

After the Scouts, he was bitten by the theater bug after seeing the play Runaways in 1978. He then attended Summer Theatre Day Camps until 1983. I was not going to mention the next story, but Andrew Martin couldn't believe I left it out so here it is. There was a bully on one of the buses who taunted him and one day, he took the rectangular boom box he was carrying and smashed the boys face in. There was blood everywhere and he was called to the Camp Administrator's office to explain himself. In light of the bullying, he did not get into trouble but this incident has obviously emboldened him to believe he can respond with physical violence if someone makes a comment or gives him a second look because of the way he dresses or due to the fact that he might be knitting on the subway. He has reported many incidences on Facebook where he has confronted such people by threatening to poke their eyes out with his knitting needles, a threat I have no doubt he would follow through with given the right circumstances. However ugly words can be, physical violence is not the answer. It may be justified, but it is not legal and could get him into trouble one of these days.

Andrew Martin went on to become a prominent member of the TADA! Youth Theater. He also worked at Theater For The New City, where he performed with 35 other cast members in his first play, Man Of Wax. He mentioned that everyone at Theater For The New City at that time smoked pot. It is there he started his "long and beautiful relationship" with marijuana. He dressed in drag for the first time in 1985 and was dubbed "Miss Andrew." He also told the audience he believes in psychics and "their amazing power to know things." At the end of his presentation, Andrew Martin reflected saying, "It hasn't been a bad life. As long as I have acting and knitting to do, I'm in decent shape." He also mentioned during the Q & A that he had an intimate, personal relationship with Stephen Sondheim, the full story of which will have to wait until both his parents are dead. 

Andrew Martin has many irons in the fire and extraordinary potential. The future is as yet unwritten for him, but as anyone who knows him can attest, he has definitely had an interesting life! After the show, he reported he promptly went out and got stoned, which may answer a number of questions regarding his life. 

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