Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Dina Martina: Flat & Lacking at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Nickolaus Hines

This review of Dina Martina: Flat & Lacking at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Nickolaus Hines and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Dina Martina: Flat & Lacking
Created by Grady West
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/20/15  

When going to The Laurie Beechman Theatre to see Dina Martina's show Flat & Lacking, she will tell you she is "going to be your hostess for just a little too long." At parts of the act, that statement drags true.

It's clear to see where the "flat" in Flat & Lacking comes from after the first song. The sold-out audience chanted "Di-na, Di-na," as she walked out into the audience and blasted a purposefully garish voice into the microphone. Exaggerated vocal fry piqued the interest of the audience as they watched Martina run around, grind on audience members, and interact with as many people as made eye contact with her, all the time trying to understand the lyrics. 

She sang three songs in total, but they all came across as a one-note joke, pardon the pun. Martina's true talent lies in her storytelling, although keeping track of the random for random's sake progression was challenging at times. If anything, Dina Martina's 20 years on stage have culminated into this experiment in random, trying to learn how many inane and nonsensical story lines can be put into one act.

The one-line zingers punctuated "the throw at the wall and see what sticks stories," and for many audience members, the one-liners appeared to save the act altogether. Much of the humor comes from self-deprecating jokes about herself, her family, her interests, and even her dreams. In one retelling of a mushroom trip of a dream, Martina babysits Jesus for Mary and Joseph because they went to see 50 Shades Of Grey. She nailed bizarre to the cross. The next thing that came out of her mouth was always the next craziest thing.

A long-standing trait of Martina is a mispronunciation of words and a lisp that turns "s" sounds into "sh" sounds, and "g" sounds into "j" sounds. It was a stainless steel crutch, but she didn't need it often because the friendly audience was completely engaged in her act. 

Martina used a tried and true style of comedy that can best be compared to verbal slap stick, but that doesn't mean she doesn't use physical humor as well. She reveals her unshaven back, plants a fat lipstick mark on the forehead of an audience member and, at one point, wears a Batman costume.

Flat & Lacking is filled with pop culture references to the past and the present. It doesn't feel old, but a couple of bits were almost an anachronism in today's world of YouTube, Vine, and viral activity.

The time between scene changes is filled with Martina's videos. Similar ones can be found with a quick YouTube search, and they all follow a similar format. A commercial or music video has Martina's face copied over the actual actor/singer's face, and the person talking/singing is her. It's the same concept as the dancing elves that swept Facebook the past couple of Christmas seasons, but with a full splash of Martina all over it.

Don't let the videos referencing the 1980s and 1990s give you the impression Martina doesn't know what is going on in today's society. The references are for a generation that grew up with MTV, but have also read American poetry and dipped their toes in the worst part of Comedy Central. She skillfully weaved together a single sentence that mentioned Maya Angelou, Katy Perry and Carrot Top without taking a breath in between their names.

Why this variety of comedy is entertaining can't be answered immediately. Then again, Martina has clearly built a loyal audience that made packing into The Laurie Beechman Theatre a tight affair.

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