Dave Droxler found solace from a dysfunctional family watching Mork and Mindy. He became entranced by the voice, dexterity and wit of Robin Williams, its breakout star. Droxler’s Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness at Theatre Row movingly and humorously explores his life of obsession with this legendary form-changing actor.
The conceit of Robin & Me is that Droxler is caught rehearsing an unidentified show. In a voiceover, Sal, the director of that show (who sounds suspiciously like Harvey Fierstein) advises him go home and rest. Instead, he begins telling his story moving about the cluttered, yet homey, stage set designed by Yi-Hsuan (Ant) Ma, interrupted by an appearance of Robin Williams who immediately begins doing an “improvised” standup bit.
Under the direction of Chad Austin, Droxler uncannily becomes not only Williams (and all of Williams cinematic characters who each serve up different helpful advice), but also his father Ed; mother Mary; and other characters, all, of course, just facets of his own persona. He even conjures the comic actor Jim Carrey who, for a short time replaces Robin Williams as an ad hoc advisor. Even Jack Nicholson makes a guest appearance.
Williams actually gives Droxler his title, Robin and Me: My Little Spark of Madness, joking that “…every good title needs a strong colon.”
Droxler tells of his beloved Italian immigrant Grandpa; of his sister Diane whom he teases incessantly; his Mother who is full of dire warnings; and Dad who spends his days watching televised lottery results and screaming at the screen. David’s first, inexplicable loss was his Grandpa.
The characters roil about his brain, often interrupting each other, but almost always coming back to the man who gave him the most comfort: Robin Williams. Williams guides Droxler’s through his troublesome puberty with Mork’s usual winking double entendres, particularly after Droxler discovers masturbation which Williams assures him is “just relaxing.”
He deals with his budding theatrical career and its ups and downs supported by his parents. It’s Williams who is the key to Droxler’s budding career. His imitation of Williams’ characters gets his foot in the showbiz door, eventually leading to his meeting Chelsey, the love of his life and the birth o their son, Tobin.
The real life death by suicide of Robin Williams hits him hard.
What holds Robin & Me is not just the details of his life, but his vocal and physical dexterity as he uncannily summons all the different characters bouncing about his brain. Droxler has a pleasant, everyman quality belied by his obvious theatrical talents.
Of course, to a certain extent Robin & Me is a way for Droxler to show off, but why not? He fleshes out the jokiness with real heart; he finds that humor helps a young cancer victim, Karlee, which gave him great satisfaction despite her sad end. His relationship with his son has charm and warmth.
Dawn Chiang’s lighting helps highlight all the battling character shifts. Deb Gaouette’s props add a great deal to Ma’s cluttered scenery.
Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness has charm and substance. It’s a real play even if one congenial guy inhabits all the characters.
Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness (through May 14, 2023)
Abingdon Theatre Company
Theatre 4 @ Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission