Jackie Mason: Brand New | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jackie Mason: Brand New 

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The stage of the Shubert Theatre is laid out like a television news studio for Jackie Mason's new one-man show--desks, chairs, elaborately schlocky "JM" logos on the walls, and big and little TV monitors everywhere. The stocky, shock-haired Mason comes on and, for a couple of hilarious hours, pointedly ignores these trappings; preferring instead to stand downstage and deal directly with his audience, he employs the set pieces only when he's mocking the self-importance of small-screen celebrities. It's as if he's paying sardonic homage to the medium that launched him in the 1950s and then squelched him when he ran afoul of network standards with his raw unpredictability and Yiddish-inflected street slang. "I've had television," he seems to be saying. "People are better." Certainly his command of the stage is extraordinary; he establishes a rapport with his audience that's remarkable for a man with so many bad-tempered opinions about so many things. His monologue isn't particularly unique in the topics it addressesthe contrasting quirks of Jews and gentiles, diet trends, arrogant and inept politicians--but Mason's masterful use of words and gestures creates a persona so curmudgeonly that you can't help but enjoy his sourball sensibility even when you don't agree with him. Shubert Theatre, through May 10 (22 W. Monroe, 902-1500). Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $14.50-$38.

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