You Only Shoot The Ones You Love

Written and performed by Jeffrey Sweet
Directed by Patricia Birch
15th Annual New York Fringe Festival
Artistic New Directions at Cherry Lane Studio 83 Commerce Street
August 13, 2011 — August 27, 2011
production web site:

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
August 13, 2011

Jeff Sweet mid story. As he often is, on stage and off.

Jeff Sweet has been developing this one man show since he was a little boy.  No not actual pen-to-paper plotting and drafting of this particular performance piece, but he has been living the raw material and honing the edges of the stories and perfecting his own delivery of his life.  Since his childhood in what he describes as the grey world of the Chicago suburbs of the 1950s and 1960s, Sweet has been moving between the nodes of New York City and Chicago as cultural and intellectual and artistic sources of inspiration, repulsion, delight — and fodder for an enchanting romp through American cultural history.  Jack Paar.  The Compass Players.  Second City. Nichols and May to Del Close to Sheldon Patinkin to Barbara Harris and so many others.  It is names and places but not name-dropping.  You must know Sweet’s history of American improv in his book Something Wonderful Right Away. On your way to obtaining a copy of that book (available in paperback from Limelight Editions), stop by the Cherry Lane Studio during the New York Fringe Festival and hear the stories directly from the man himself.

This is one man on a stage telling stories, artfully constructed. The stories happen to be about an evolving life with relatable themes — finding your community (for Sweet this involves in part finding the people responsible for the humor and the movies and the plays to which he naturally responds), taking your career into your own hands and taking chances (Sweet’s story of booking the interview with Lanford Wilson by simply approaching him then selling the interview is inspirational), living the life you’re meant to live.

If you are lucky enough to know Jeff, you have heard him tell versions of some of the stories that you will hear on stage in this piece. I have heard some of these stories off stage, and have watched this show evolve on stage, in a few venues, over a few months.  I come away from the experience aware of the art and the craft, the etching and scraping and positioning of the stories, that has gone into constructing the show up to this point.  Each iteration brings refinements.  I fully expect this piece to continue to evolve — part of the wonder of the improvisation tradition from which Sweet comes about which we learn during the course of the play.

Be part of the essential artist-audience collaborative, be part of this play’s life and on the way enjoy learning a few things about our theatre history.

Now I shall go enjoy actress Barbara Harris and one of my favorite tunes in one of my favorite movies.  Ukulele included.

© Martha Wade Steketee (August 16, 2011)

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