By Kendra Jones

“Kids just wanna get messy!”

As we enter the theater, we’re invited to put our names in the fishbowl in the hope that we’re chosen as a participant for “physical challenges.” A television plays clips of Marc Summers’s hosted Nickelodeon and Food Network program television shows: “Double Dare” and “Unwrapped.” Honestly, this was extremely informational and included all the necessary information regarding Marc’s television timeline to catch me up upon entering the show with only knowledge of the slime but not of Summers’s presence within the networks.

Photo by Russ Rowland

If you grew up watching shows hosted by Mark Summers, this show is for you. The nostalgia of audience members having pies launched at their faces made the audience cheer and yell. I heard the enthusiasm as one side of the audience cheered for blue, and my side cheered for red. The woman in front of me was called up for a trivia game, resulting in a physical challenge. She clearly did not expect a mess, as she came wearing a blazer and dress slacks. But, her husband and son on either side of her whooped when her name was called, and she, a bit apprehensively, ascended the stage with excitement.

Growing up, Summers lived with undiagnosed OCD; he personifies this condition as a stalker–it is an actual human (Nappi) cloaked in a trench coat as this “shadow” calling on the phone and following Summers. I was waiting to see the challenges and adversities that OCD led to, but Summers simply showed us this figure over his shoulder influencing him to read the same sign over and over, repeat actions or else his family would die, something would happen to his parents. I wanted him to plummet into his anxieties. I wanted him to humanize himself. Did OCD keep “calling” and leaving without any punishment, negative impacts?

Photo by Russ Rowland

There were questions left unanswered, and I was unsure whether they were related to his OCD: Why was he canceled as a persona? Why did his parents stop talking to him? How did Summers feel when his son took over Unwrapped while he himself was being treated for cancer? I felt as thought there were several opportunities for Summers to really dive into these challenges and expose himself as a human outside of television host.

We see his entire timeline: from a baby’s first cries to college, to marriage, to his break into television, and jumps from one opportunity to the next. We see his three battles with cancer. While this may not have been technically a one-man show, it felt like one to the extent that so much was spent on narrating his life events. We spend half the show in his early formative years, an extensive amount of time in his life before he even graduates college.

I wanted to see the mess of Marc. His anxieties, these physical challenges, getting the best of him. For a man that had been told “No” and seeing it as rather a “Not yet” in his professional endeavors, I wanted to see this in his personal life. It would have allowed the audience to really connect with Summers if he’d have given more of himself.

The most exciting parts of this production were, in fact, when there was mess. Slime, pies in the face, milk streaming from rubber glove udders, endless straightening of the tassels of a rug. I so hoped that he would allow us to see the mess of his personal life, for how much he kept circling back to OCD, for how much this condition seemed to affect his living.

His sprinkled humor throughout danced us from one event to the next on his timeline, and I sat eagerly waiting for the next moment there would be mess. While the audience indicated a family friendly show, it was really a time for adults to learn of the challenges and see the man himself behind a face that led live and television audiences for decades. It brought back those Nickelodeon slime days, and of course, it’s always a great time when we get to see people get pied in the face–not once but several times during a show.


THE LIFE AND SLIMES OF MARC SUMMERS, written by Alex Brightman and Drew Gasparini, direction by Chad Rabinovitz

With Marc Summers

Set design by Christopher Rhoton, lighting design by Jeffrey Small, co-sound design by David Sheehan & Hidenori Nakajo, and costumes by Scott Jones.

At New World Stages, playing Monday at 7 PM, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, and  Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $69 – $299 (VIP tickets with a Meet and Greet). The show will run through June 2, 2023. For tickets and more information