Arts & Events

Eye from the Aisle: Don Reed “Kipling Hotel” Luke-Warm-Up @ Berkeley Marsh

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 10:18:00 AM
Don Reed “Kipling Hotel"
Ric Omphroy
Don Reed “Kipling Hotel"

Don Reed’s solo East 14th comedy/storytelling played to raves last year, and garnered award nominations. I didn’t see it. I did see the opening of KIPLING HOTEL at The Marsh in Berkeley last Saturday night, and there are no raves or nominations in the offing for this outing. It was the sort of jokey storytelling that the sort-of-funny guy tells when holding forth in the kitchen at the party where everyone laughs for his effort and because they are a little tipsy. There were polite chuckles and occasional hearty laughs. But I noted three people in adjacent rows close to the stage were falling asleep. 

Mr. Reed is agile, expressive, an accomplished mimic of the characters he has encountered, as well as an impressive dancer and entertaining singer, all of which add to his stories about LA in the 80’s. However, his stories are only mildly humorous. While this was opening night, Mr. Reed stumbled over many of his lines and cut off the end of many punch lines. The spin and inflection of the words is an important part of comedy, and having a mastery of every sentence and moment is essential. It was more akin to attending a rehearsal with a week to go.  

His stories are about working in an elder hotel for his room and board while attending UCLA while having a second job as a male stripper. Perhaps his previous long-running success in East 14th had more funny-juice—it was about fleeing from his Jehovah’s Witness stepdad to live with his real dad on East 14th in Oakland—and his dad turns out to be a pimp. 

Only the most ingenious of storytellers can hold forth effectively for longer than one act, and Mr. Reed’s material lasts fully for two acts with an intermission; this reviewer could only abide the first act. 

There was an announcement in the promo that Don Reed is scheduled for an upcoming Fox TV special. 

In the preshow intro the artistic director pointedly encouraged the audience to visit the newly opened bar at the Marsh; perhaps that would have helped, but this reviewer is lately a teetotaler. The bar is a nice convenience though, and there is a forthcoming menu promised, so the Marsh may be a place to spend the entire evening in the future. But if you plan on seeing Mr. Reed’s KIPLING HOTEL, I’d give it week or so to improve. 

John A. McMullen II is a member of SFBATCC, ATCA, and SDC. E J Dunne edits. 

PS Don’t look here for stars, thumbs up/down, or Like/Don’t Like. Eye from the Aisle feels that snapshot opinions without explicit and articulated reasons are unfair to the artist.