Laurie Beechman Theatre – February 9, 10, 11
At the top of his show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, actor-comedian Alec Mapa told the audience about his recent Las Vegas engagement. He said he had been asked by management to watch his language. Mapa assured the largely gay and gay-friendly Beechman crowd that he would not curb his tongue with them—that he would include all the “filthy bits.” This promise won him a roar of approval. And Mapa followed through. Many of his jokes dripped with raunch. But they didn’t seem to me to be further outside the bounds of decency than those of many heterosexual comics working in over-18 establishments. It made me wonder whether the Sin City censors objected to Mapa working blue or to his working lavender?
The show’s title, “Baby Daddy,” referred to Mapa and his husband’s adoption of a five-year-old boy. The major portion of the routine was devoted to this theme. There were, however, several amusing digressions from the adoption saga. Some were purely funny, such as Mapa’s bit about adding the phrase “Ooh, girl!” to the end of Anderson Cooper’s Tweets (funny for much the same reason that adding the words “in bed” to the end of a fortune-cookie message is funny). In another bit—after lamenting younger gay men’s ignorance of classic divas—Mapa performed the Miley Cyrus pop song “Party in the U.S.A.” as Bette Davis would have sung it.
Other detours were both funny and poignant—notably Mapa’s description of himself as a child watching the Tony Awards. To his parents’ confusion and dismay, young Alec became almost literally mesmerized by Dorothy Loudon singing “Easy Street” from Annie.
Mapa is no slouchy, rumpled comic. He looked sharp—almost Rat Pack-ish—in his snazzy gray suit and purple tie. At one point he even snapped his fingers like Bobby Darin at the Sands. His facial expressions contributed much to his comic effect. When describing events that left him nonplussed, Mapa would assume the posture of a hawk locking eyes with a doomed field mouse Then, suddenly, he would break concentration and bust into a goofy, just-kidding smile, sometimes punctuated with a giggle.
There were minor stumbles in his rapid-fire delivery. Mapa kept some notes on a center-stage stool, and occasionally referred to them. Once he seemed on the verge of losing his place. Perhaps his routine had recently been rearranged or augmented.
The nature of the adoption theme allowed Mapa to infuse his set with content both specific and universal. The unusual ethnic diversity of his nuclear family provided him not only with gay-oriented material but also some racially themed humor. In one of his most memorable and effective moments, he described the variations on an inevitable triangular head-swivel movement that occurs whenever a stranger encounters his nontraditional family unit: Eyes go first to Filipino-American Mapa, then down to the African-American son, and finally back up to the Caucasian husband.
But then there were the more universal moments: familiar (at points, too familiar) tales about the rigors of parenting. Mapa talked about coping with public tantrums, projectile vomiting, and juvenile diarrhea. These were probably not the “filthy bits” the Beechman audience had been hoping for, but Mapa earned laughs with them nonetheless.
The end of the show took an unabashedly sentimental turn as Mapa presented a slide show depicting the adoption ceremony for his son. This elicited some “awws” from the crowd. At least one guy at my table was dabbing his eyes with a napkin. With this finale, Mapa demonstrated that standup comics these days can find success mimicking recent trends in the marketing of chocolate: He proved you can make a hit being both salty and sweet.
About the Author
Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. He began writing reviews for BistroAwards.com in 2011. More recently he has contributed "Cabaret Setlist" articles about cabaret repertoire. Other reviews and articles have appeared in theaterscene.net and clydefitchreport.com, as well as in American Theatre and Back Stage. As a dramaturg, he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. He is currently literary manager for Broad Horizons Theatre Company.