By Tulis McCall
A.J. Holmes is a very smart, not to mention talented, man. He is so smart he is not aftraid to share the stage with a variety of opening acts. On the night I attended Marcia Belsky opened the evening with songs that were so diabolical they made a person sit up and hang on every word. Do check out her 100 Tampons. (Hint – it starts about 5 minutes in but the other songs are brilliant)
The very tiny stage at Soho Playhouse was choc-a-block full with keyboard, recording devices, lights etc. A.J. Holmes followed Belsky and folded himself into the seat behind the keyboard. His eyes sparkle as if he were about to tell you the most amazing bedtime story e-v-e-r.
Whatever he is about to do, you can’t wait.
What he is about to do, or rather about to avoid doing, is to tell you the story of his not that long life. Hence Yeah, But Not Right Now. We will get to it all, but not right now. “This show is a miracle,” he tells us. “We made it up last night.” Finally the voice from the light booth let’s us know that while this is entertaining, it is A.J. avoiding the story.
Holmes backs into the tale with the very funny/poignant Please Wake Up. (Your days are fading and you’re missing out.) And there we are back at the beginning with a huge dysfunctional family who glossed over the chinks in their armor by singing show tunes. At the time it seemed normal. With the distance of decades it is just another piece of evidence that this family did not know how to communicate. But hey, when A.J. was called upon to be the entertainment all on his own he was fascinated to discover that people paid attention to him!
We move through his life like passengers on an adventure ride at Disney World. Be careful of the rapids over there. Pay attention to the wild beasts on the edge of the river over there. Duck when that lunatic comes swinging overhead on the end of a vine.
We begin on Broadway, where A.J. appeared in The Book Of Mormon. Our destination, however, is the place where A.J., successfully employed onstage in London, takes a dive and turns a little despicable. Just enough to make the audience stop empathizing with him.
After eons of self inspection he suspects that he is a F*ck Boy – and so do we.
Except, except, except not. How could that be when this Holmes guy is so captivating, so funny and so dead on with his observations? Even when he tries to manipulate us into thinking we are just like him. Even when he begs to be liked because that is just how he rolls. Even when he admits that he said the exact same lines at the last show and wonders out loud if he is being authentic.
Holmes zips back and forth in his story like an elf on supercharged roller skates. He records into some contraption we cannot see and within seconds he has four-part harmony sprinkled with percussion, guitar, steel drum and anything else he can get his hands on. There is no time to pause and reflect because this train has left the station and we do not want to miss a moment of the ride.
Holmes is so charismatic that even when the story more or less dissolves well before the official end we still follow along. The train runs out of gas but it does not stop Holmes from entertaining us with every molecule in his being as we drift to a Full Stop.
This show would be a perfect compliment to Neal Brennan: Unacceptable. Two men picking at their lives with magic tweasers. One with music, one without. I recommend both.
At the end of the evening, the gentleman sitting next to me said, “He is endearing.” Not, I think what Holmes was going for. Call it an unexpected benefit.
Yeah, But Not Right Now – Written and performed by A. J. Holmes, Directed by Caitlin Cook, Yeah, But Not Right Now has set design by three-time Tony Award-winner Scott Pask, sound design by Craig Bundy, lighting design by Brandon Bogel, and costume design by Jama McMahon.
At the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street through October 17. TICKETS HERE
Due to popular demand, there will be an additional performance weekly on Saturdays at 9pm.