Back Stage, “Bistro Bits”: “Impressively More Than The Sum Of Its Brainy Parts”

David Finkle, Back Stage

Back in the days when I was writing and producing at Upstairs at the Downstairs, we were hungry for people writing intelligent satirical songs. If Peter Yawitz had walked into the room with his passel of guffawers, we would have jumped for joy. Here’s a guy who thinks and writes funny (often with an equally adept collaborator), who performs with assured ease, and, moreover, who concerns himself with subject matter that doesn’t occur so regularly to others.

Yawitz has family on the mind. A hefty segment of his show, “A New Man”–just finished at Don’t Tell Mama and back next month–concerns getting the best for his kids. Its centerpiece is an extended ditty called “Not Good Enough” (Peter Lurye as co-lyricist), which is about rejection letters from hoity-toity private schools. To make the point that these establishments can be wrong, Yawitz and Lurye imagine rejection letters sent the parents of Sigmund Freud, Mona Lisa, Bill Gates, and others. In these lyrics, puns abound, and it’s all delightful.

Dressed in suit and tie, as if due at a private-school interview himself, Yawitz looks like any suburban dad and, as the act builds, lets the comic frustrations afflicting suburban dads (often not comically) pulse through the room. When the mood strikes, he also shows how a father’s worries can get the better of him–this in another of his medleys about contending with children’s troubled dreams. (For this one, he interpolates “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”) Funny and frightening in equal measures.

Getting around to other subjects, like corporate jargon and macho behavior, Yawitz cleverly promotes his “new man” theme. By the time he’s finished (with Matthew Ward at the piano), he’s presented a shrewd show that’s impressively more than the sum of its brainy parts.