As you could tell from my last column, the current theater season has me feeling pretty desperate. But desperation can be fun. Take Desperate Housewives — not one but two writers from the campy ABC series have comedies hitting New York stages, and one of the authors you’ve actually heard of, Julia Sweeney. Best known for playing androgynous über-geek Pat on Saturday Night Live, Sweeney also has a number of theater productions under her belt, including God Said, ‘Ha!’, , her harrowing one-woman show about her battle with cancer. I saw it on Broadway and was impressed by how many laughs she was able to elicit while talking about a terminal disease. Now that’s talent! Her latest solo show, Letting Go of God (Ars Nova Theater, 511 W. 54th St, Nov 10-12, 17-19, 25-26) tackles hot button topic du jour, religion, as a woman goes on a journey of self-discovery after two Mormon missionaries arrive on her doorstep. Yeah, I know it sounds pretentious, and in lesser hands, the show would most likely suck. But Sweeney is usually hilarious (get over the bomb It’s Pat, Ok? That was 11 years ago and she’s worked on Sex and the City since then) and always poignant.
Like Sweeney, Jenna Bans also started out as an actress. But she quickly turned to writing, probably when she realized (like me) that you can actually get paid for stringing words together. While the title of her new play eats up half of my column space, Help Me Help Myself: The New York Guide to Love, Fame, Fortune and Everything You’ve Ever Dreamt Of in 30 Days or Less (Looking Glass Theatre, 422 W. 57th St., Nov 9-19), the script was strong enough to impress Desperate Housewives’ creator Marc Cherry, who hired Bans on the spot. And that’s not surprising since the show’s got everything Cherry cherishes — single neurotic chicks involved in twisted love affairs.
Barbie may not be a housewife but she’s been acting pretty desperate of late. In a mid-still-life crisis, she dumped Ken for brainless surfer dude Blaine (who is like, so gay) and tried to forge a whole new life. The iconic plastic blonde’s various incarnations will be explored, celebrated and satirized in The Barbie Project (The Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster St., Nov 10-12, 18-19), a cornucopia of vaudeville-cabaret musical performances, monologues and dance pieces. And if you win the Barbie trivia game, you get to take home your very own Barbie or Ken. Sorry, no Blaines.