I love the cabaret room at The Duplex. It’s cozy, small and narrow. People are seated close to one another in a way that feels like a party is about to begin. The room was packed. When Ben Rimalower made his entrance through the audience belting out an old Judy Garland song; “I’d like to hate myself in the morning” we were ready for the games to begin.
But then Ben explained that his identification with Judy was not only her alcoholism but especially her horrible debts. Not much is explained about the origins of his difficulties. He tells us how his grandmother bought him everything he wanted. He tells how his mother paid the bill for his high school prom limo. He had spent all the money he had collected from his friends for the car. His mother continued to enable him for a long time paying off maxed out credit cards, etc. Later he turns to prostitution for money to support himself and his alcohol and drug needs. He tells these stories with humor and charisma. The audience laughed along. I wondered whether they were just cheering “bad boy defiance”.
The story continues with his betrayal of friends and even a man who gave him an opportunity to fulfill his dream of creating a theatrical production. He embezzled money from this man who did not press charges. Ben says: “…..I saw myself as an emerging talent when what I am is a criminal…..I need to stop using people…if I had been born to a different family (one that didn’t bail him out) I would probably be in jail.”
The audience got quieter and the laughing subsided.
By the end of the show he tells us he has easily stopped using drugs and alcohol but is still struggling with his spending addiction. There was nothing moving in the evening. I was not convinced that any real change had taken place. It seemed like an indulgent detached “drunkalogue” more appropriate in a meeting room than a theater. Nevertheless he received healthy applause at the end of the show. I wasn’t sure whether people in the audience knew him (there was some indication of that) or whether they were just enabling him.
At The Duplex, 61 Christopher Street, Manhattan, 800 316 8559.
Thursdays at 9:30 thru 12/18/2014, $25.00 plus a 2 drink minimum.
Running time: 1 hour