I will be talking about the blow job a lot tonight,
to a point of tedium said an early critic… but don’t worry,
I will do so in a way that allows us all to maintain our dignity.
I’m very concerned with dignity. For example, I call doggy style…the Hound’s Way…
T.S. Eliot, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov and Arthur Miller are cleverly referenced in the course of writer and performer Jacqueline Novak’s riotous, literate and playfully raunchy extended standup comedy act, Get On Your Knees that explores sexuality.
Dressed in gray jeans, a gray T-shirt and white sneakers, the gutsy seasoned comic Ms. Novak expertly paces, gesticulates and does wild double take after double take while clutching a microphone. With her soothing yet expressive vocal tones Novak confidently delivers her masterfully crafted material. It’s comprised of a multitude of classic setup punchlines, precise observations and breezy conversational riffs. The results are very funny and thought provoking. “Death is coming” sets off a somberly pragmatic rumination as there’s more than sex to her routine.
Following a blaring recording of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” Novak enters the bare stripped down stage of brick walls and exposed fixtures with a microphone on a stand in the center. She proceeds to deliver a conventionally bland Ellen DeGeneres-style set but after 15 minutes, BAM! We’re now experiencing a comedy genius recalling the brilliance of George Carlin. Her animated yet laid back presence forcefully renders her humorous observations with momentum.
Detailing her preoccupation with performing oral sex on men that began as a teenager which was fulfilled at the age of 16 instigates a superbly constructed autobiographical narrative laced with universality. We learn that she’s Jewish from Chappaqua, New York and that she’s apologetically and dully heterosexual as is her long-time boyfriend.
Don’t value my virginity on my behalf.
When I never did. I never did!
I didn’t earn it!
I got it just showing up on earth.
Always felt like I was playing with the House’s money
Like “I have this virginity voucher!
We should use it before we leave the resort!”
After feeling her maiden effort at giving oral sex wasn’t working out she decides to offer her partner intercourse. This is perhaps the most revolutionary and significant sequence of the show. She blithely tosses off anecdotes about what is considered by many to be a profound event. This typifies the show’s cultural achievement. In this age of Me Too with its brutal and exploitative revelations, here we boldly get an empowered women unabashedly reveling in the everyday reality of sex fearlessly on her own terms.
Director John Early imaginatively manipulates Novak between perpetual movement, stillness, and in dancer-like poses. This combination utilizes the spacious playing area to great visual effect. Theda Hammel’s sound design chiefly broadcasts “Like a Prayer” with bombastic glory.
With the plethora of standup comedy specials available on cable, streaming and performed live, the insightfully hilarious Jacqueline Novak: Get On Your Knees is a distinctive match of a sensational performer with substantive material.
Jacqueline Novak: Get On Your Knees (retauren engagement December 14, 2019 – January 236, 2020)
Abingdon Theatre Company
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 12 Christopher Street, in Manhattan
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission