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Everything’s Fine

This evening with Douglas McGrath proves he is not only congenial company but he is a captivating raconteur.

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Douglas McGrath in his one-man show “Everything’s Fine” at the DR2 Theatre (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Actor/writer/director Douglas McGrath is a charming storyteller and his one-man show Everything’s Fine is a total delight. He tells the entertaining and poignant story of his eventful 14th year when he was in ninth grade but also describes life in his family of five growing up in Midland, Texas. His tale of darkest adolescence is also nostalgic and reminiscent of the problems of life as a teen. The title turns out to be ironic as it was an expression his father used before announcing there was a new problem.

His earliest memories were of the sound of sand blowing against his window as the weather in west Texas is very hot, very dusty and “very, very windy.” Some days, if the direction was right, the wind could blow him home from school on his bike. His father, a Massachusetts Yankee, had come to Midland to be in the oil business, and his mother met him when she visited a friend from her job at Harper’s Bazaar who had married a Midland oil man. He proposed the day they met but she held him off until six months later. The most remarkable thing about Searle McGrath (as he was known) was his glass eye which had the unfortunate habit of dropping out until he started wearing eye patches that matched his outfits.

Douglas McGrath in his one-man show “Everything’s Fine” at the DR2 Theatre (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

Nothing much happened in Midland except that the movies changed at the local theatre, but in the eighth grade, Douglas’ class received a new history teacher and nothing was ever the same again for him in Midland. Mrs. Malenkov was more colorful than the other teachers, appearing more liberated and outgoing. Her hair was not glued down with hair spray and she wore stylish clothes including a red pants suit, daring for west Texas in 1972. She believed in making learning “fun” and she invited the class to join her and her husband to paint the room a bright color. With posters typical of the early 1970’s and mobiles made by the students, their classroom was unique in the school.

And then Mrs. Malenkov begins asking Doug to stay after school and chat. Next he starts getting notes from her on blue onion skin paper in his locker as his home room was also her classroom. Then she invites him to her house for hot chocolate. He realized that she has a crush on him which is definitely not reciprocated. When he stops visiting after school she embarrasses him by calling his home during dinner. The notes do not stop for a year. Ultimately, he tells his best friend, the more precocious Eddie Larkin, who makes suggestions as to what he should do. This unusual relationship overshadows his entire ninth grade year.

Douglas McGrath in his one-man show “Everything’s Fine” at the DR2 Theatre (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

Everything’s Fine deals with a well-adjusted but unsophisticated teenager who has a problem he does not know how to solve. Told in a manner that is amusing, evocative and endearing, the play also has its dramatic surprises. Set in a classroom with a teacher’s desk, student chairs and tables, and a banker’s box full of blue onion skin notes in John Lee Beatty’s realistic environment, the play is subtly directed by actor John Lithgow in the manner in which he performed his own one-man show, Stories by Heart.

An evening with Douglas McGrath proves he is not only congenial company but he is a captivating raconteur. The author of the screenplay for Bullets over Broadway and the book for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is an engaging narrator. His sense of timing and irony is perfection. He tells his unusual childhood tale with the sincerity and drollery that makes for a classic. His use of paradox and hyperbole are reminiscent of James Thurber and Jean Shepherd. Everything’s Fine is a superior entertainment and a satisfying evening in the theater.

Everything’s Fine (through November 2, 2022)

DR2 Theatre, 103 W. 15th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.Telecharge.com

Running time: one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (838 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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