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Review: ‘Which Reminds Me’ at Act II Playhouse

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If you’re a fan of Tony Braithwaite and his one-person (or sometimes two-person) shows – often performed at Act II Playhouse, where he is the Artistic Director – you know what to expect from his latest show, Which Reminds Me. It’s another example of the amiable, easygoing humor that he’s made his trademark.

Tony Braithwaite. Photo by Bill D'Agostino.

Tony Braithwaite. Photo by Bill D’Agostino.

And if you’re not a fan of Tony Braithwaite… well, chances are Tony already knows. Over the course of 75 minutes in his new show, Tony quotes his own bad reviews, recounts battles with hecklers, and reads letters from oddly offended patrons.

None of this stops him. He doesn’t take it too seriously. Which is a big reason why he comes across so well.

Which Reminds Me is a “glimpse behind the curtain” that focuses on what happens when things go wrong onstage. Thus the show is filled with anecdotes of theatrical mishaps – whether they happened to Tony himself or whether they happened in the 19th Century. There are also video segments in which local Philadelphia actors relate their own experiences. Patrick Dolan did the video production.)

Most of the stories in Which Reminds Me are undoubtedly true, while some are definitely apocryphal; even one of the stories told on video doesn’t hold up to close examination. But this show is more a diversion than a history lesson. And sometimes it’s too light for its own good: A story about his brief teenage career as a standup comic gets cut off just as it’s getting interesting. (Braithwaite went into much more detail about this period of his life in his 2008 autobiographical show Look Mom, I’m Swell!)

Tony Braithwaite. Photo by Bill D'Agostino.

Tony Braithwaite. Photo by Bill D’Agostino.

Setting up the stories allows Braithwaite to haul out his greatest hits – impressions of everyone from Carol Channing to Katharine Hepburn to, believe it or not, Richard Nixon – and to sing anthems like “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” He’s an okay singer and a pretty good impressionist, but it’s his enthusiasm for performing – and for show business in general – that comes across best.

And as usual, he excels in an audience participation segment. On the night I attended, he asked theatre trivia questions to an audience member who, judging from his answers, knew almost nothing about the theatre – which only made the bit, and Braithwaite’s reactions, funnier.

Adam Riggar’s set design suggests the backstage environment pretty well, and Constance Case has provided Braithwaite with a crimson tux that belongs on a stage – and nowhere else. Dan Matarazzo accompanies Braithwaite on piano, and even gets a chance to tell a story of his own, while Assistant Stage Manager Michal Kortsarts becomes a third performer in the show by virtue of the amount of time she spends carrying props on and off the stage.

Watching Which Reminds Me, you’ll see what inspired Braithwaite to seek a career in the theatre, and why, despite the occasional screw-up, he still finds it worthwhile – and why so many others do, too.

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

Which Reminds Me plays through October 1, 2017 at Act II Playhouse – 56 E. Butler Avenue, in Ambler, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 654-0200, or purchase them online.

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