Patti Issues/Bad With Money review at St James Theatre, London – ‘extraordinary’
This utterly extraordinary pair of confessional monologues are rare and sometimes chilling in their frankness, but they are also inspiring as cautionary tales of chasing, and then derailing, your own dreams.
Ben Rimalower tells his own life story via a pair of inevitably overlapping narratives. The first, Patti Issues, tells of his fanboy obsession for Broadway diva Patti LuPone, from the first time he heard her on the Broadway cast album of Evita, to eventually working with her when he was an assistant director on a concert production of Sweeney Todd at Lincoln Center. But there's also a parallel story of his badly damaged relationship with his father, who left home when he was still a boy to come out as gay, after which he and his younger sister were formally adopted by their new stepfather. There's searing honesty – and some fun Broadway dish – in the way these worlds collide.
But the second show, Bad With Money, is even more revealing and enlightening, as he exposes his lifelong battle with spending way beyond his means, and the various ways he has tried to plug the gap – from dabbling as a gay male prostitute while a student at the University of California, Berkeley, to defrauding his employers and colleagues, whether as an assistant to a TV producer or co-producing an Off-Broadway play he was directing. He talks with a disarming fearlessness about a journey that could have cost him even more than the money he was spending that he didn't have, and his attempts at rehab and redemption through the 12-step Debtors Anonymous programme.
Rimalower has the ability of a natural stand-up to turn this extremely personal story into a vividly entertaining, as well as hugely instructive and rewarding, evening.