If you ask me… “Dishwasher Dreams”

Comedy Routine As Theatre At Hartford Stage

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

So you say you’ve got a yen to go to the Bananas Comedy Club in Passaic, New Jersey where a two drink minimum will get you an evening of laughs?  Save the trip!  There’s stand-up posing as a theatre production currently on the boards at Hartford Stage.  It is called “Dishwasher Dreams” and you may actually need more than two drinks to get through it.

Written and performed by the Muslim stand-up comic Alaudin Ullah, “Dishwasher Dreams” is an immigrant story about Ullah’s father who came from Bangladesh and worked as a dishwasher in Spanish Harlem.  Ullah recounts growing up in a neighborhood where outsiders like him faced challenges even as his parents made a life where they would all fit in and prosper.

This memory play is familiar without being special. The various stories are pleasant without being unique.  Ullah recalls family dinners, movie trips to see the latest Bollywood musical or new films by the Indian director Satyajit Ray.  His favorite memory, however, is going with his dad to Yankee Stadium to cheer on his hero, Reggie Jackson.

Alaudin Ullah is an amiable, lumpish presence on stage who seemed nervous on opening night as though he needed a hand mic for comfort.  Unlike solo shows like Chazz Palminteri’s “A Bronx Tale” or Anna Deveare Smith’s “Fires in the Mirror”, there is no attempt to differentiate his characters with vocal or physical changes and, as an actor, he is extremely limited.

This is really a 20-minute stand-up routine elongated to just under two hours (no intermission). The tedium sets in quickly.  The repetitive direction by Chay Yew has Ullah walking to one square patch of light (the precise lighting design is by Anshuman Bhatia) practically every 45 seconds never allowing the actor to simply stay, sit and talk to us for a prolonged period of time.

To fill out the slight evening, talented percussionist Avirodh Sharma adds flavor with incidental, live music throughout. Sharma’s extended, opening drum solo is fairly impressive and threatens to be the highlight of the evening.

“Dishwasher Dreams” is sincere and harmless entertainment but ultimately seems amateurish and out of place at a major regional theatre.  It continues at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, through March 20th. For further information visit: www.hartfordstage.org or call the theatre box office: 860.527.7838.

Patrons are required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination and photo I.D. at the door.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

 

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