To the editor:
I write to you today in response to Drew Pisarra’s review of “Who is Wilford Brimley? The Musical” [“Soggy Oats,” GO Brooklyn, Nov. 20]. It seems that Mr. Pisarra took the play a bit too literally.
As the person who worked at the ticket counter at the Brick Theatre throughout the run of the show, I had the experience of viewing the show several times and never once left the show asking myself why the question posed in the show’s title had not been answered. In fact, it was bluntly answered at the end of every show, when the audience is called upon to ask the question out loud, to which the narrator replied, “Wilford Brimley is a hero!”
True, that may not have been the answer that Mr. Pisarra was looking for (he seemed to be looking for a much more literal answer), yet the show, after all, is billed as a comedy! Sure, the play chronicled Mr. Brimley’s life with informative truths and untruths, but never once was the play alluded to as sticking to the truth. Why add every aspect of his career, when the true aspects of his career mentioned in the play (moving from Salt Lake City, Utah to Los Angeles to be a blacksmith; his first acting roles and major starring roles; his turn as the Quaker Oats spokesperson, and yes, even his stint as Liberty Medical spokesperson) provide plenty of “rich fodder” for the play!
The press release for the show even described it as “an irreverent farce that blends both the true and almost certainly untrue trials of grandfatherly character actor Wilford Brimley.”
“Object of ridicule”? Please! I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Pisarra’s statement that “the trio of performing collaborators (Jon Bulette, Nils d’Aulaire and Jay Klaitz) have opted to dream up their own particulars with the hope that seeing a fat old man dance, grimace and blubber will generate laughs aplenty.” Perhaps Mr. Pisarra thinks that Mr. Bulette, Mr. d’Aulaire and Mr. Klaitz wrote, produced and directed this play to poke fun at a “fat old man,” but I got the sense that the trio holds Mr. Brimley to a much higher esteem! His redemption song at the end of the show emphasizes the huge heart Mr. Brimley has. The narrator’s obvious love for Mr. Brimley, the trio’s dance at the close of the show and even just the fact that they did write, produce and direct a show entirely about Mr. Brimley indicated a respect for Mr. Brimley rather than them deciding to write a play about an actor just to make fun of him!
“Lack of talent”? I’m not sure what Mr. Pisarra views as talent, but Mr. Klaitz received his Master’s in Fine Arts for acting from Harvard (another recent reviewer of the show, from nytheatre.com, wrote that Mr. Klaitz’s performance was “letter-perfect!”) and has been in plays all over the world! Mr. d’Aulaire is a renowned musician (who masters a plethora of instruments) on the East Coast and Mr. Bulette is a comedian who has written for “The Onion” and performed with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade! I’m sure that with such credentials (to only name a few of them!) this trio must have “talent”!
Mr. Pisarra writes, “Even further afield are the impersonations done by the supporting players. As the aforementioned Guttenberg, d’Aulaire dons a fright wig then considers his job done. As Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Bulette does even less: All he’s got is a T-shirt bearing the name of the former cast member of ‘The Cosby Show.’”
I believe that those costumes were part of the idea! It’s supposed to be funny that a lanky white man uses the T-shirt and a pair of glasses to portray Malcolm Jamal-Warner. He even poked fun at himself when, once the scene with Mr. Jamal-Warner ended and he returned to his role as narrator, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t be fooled by the glasses. I’m not Malcolm Jamal-Warner!” Mr. Guttenberg’s fright wig was clearly not supposed to be taken seriously, as well. This is a comedy!
Mr. Pisarra’s statement that: “Ultimately, you can’t help but feel that this trio Googled ‘Wilford Brimley’ for inspiration, then forgot to research him (or anyone else) once the project got underway” is rubbish. Mr. Bulette, Mr. d’Aulaire and Mr. Klaitz visibly did their homework, as was abundantly clear throughout their show. It seems that Mr. Pisarra forgot to do his as a reviewer in taking the show a bit more seriously than it ought to have been taken.
If Mr. Pisarra has such an abundance of knowledge about Wilford Brimley from Mr. Brimley’s “ubiquitous, curmudgeonly presence on the small screen via commercials for Quaker Oats and Liberty Mutual,” then he should know that Mr. Brimley is actually in a commercial for Liberty Medical, not Liberty Mutual.
— Bekka Payack, Greenpoint
Editor’s Note: “Lack of talent” is a phrase taken out of context. In fact, Drew Pisarra wrote: “Lack of talent and daring isn’t the problem here.”