from broadway AJ Holmes (who tells us he legally added the previous show-biz id to his name) has an impressive list of on-stage and screen credentials, from his 1000+ performances as the main character Elder Cunningham in the The Book of Mormon on Broadway, the nationwide tour of the United States, London’s West End and in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, to write for the popular animated television series South Park and YouTube musical theater company sensation Starkid Productions. His solo musical Yeah, but not now, currently playing an Off-Broadway engagement limited to SoHo Playhouse, not only affirms his multiple exceptional talents as actor, comedian, singer, musician, composer and writer, but also offers a very personal look at his own life and his own psyche.
Indicative of Holmes’ inclination to procrastinate – both in telling and singing his truths to the audience, and, in particular, to mature (“Please wake up”) – the show s ‘opens with a guest artist covering it up until it’s ready (stand up comic Dan Soter the night I attended, who offered hilarious observations about the’ 90s and what to expect at the ‘to come up). Holmes eventually makes his late entry wearing a silk robe over his everyday clothes (with Jama McMahon as a costume consultant), having slept too late to make it to the theater on time.
Half cabaret-style concert, half self-therapy session, the intimate show, referencing Bo Burnham: Inside (calling himself the ‘cheap Bo Burnham’), is presented directly to the audience, with frequent interactions and calls for answers, affirmation and sympathy for his life as a ‘privileged cis white’, as the ever-engaged Brooklyn . based artist, under the direction of Caitlin Cook, traces her journey from a childhood in California with theater-loving parents and an ever-cheerful mother, to his move to New York and a move in with his new girlfriend, to his status as international star and “Fuckboi”, to his current need to reveal his missteps and his faults.
All of this is done through revealing stories and songs – often self-deprecating, sometimes ironic egocentric – that expose his ‘genuinely performative’ personality, his need for validation and acceptance by being the guy people want him to be ( “I Can Be That Guy”), and the big mistakes he made along the way (including cheating on that girlfriend at home over and over and over and over and over and over while he was away, and now flirting of the stage with the “Beautiful Girl in the front row”).
Some of the many skills he displays in the show include his perfect comedic timing, emotional expressiveness, mastery of improvisation, vocal range and breath control, as well as his expert musicality on keyboard, guitar. and percussion. He also dazzles as a master technician, recording, layering and looping segments of songs, speeches and instruments live on stage, then playing them back to create the effect of a full band accompanying his solo performance ( most breathtaking is its double-layered alternate deliveries of all the other syllables of a song, which were perfectly merged and completed on replay). It’s backed up by clear sound design by Craig Bundy, mood-matched lighting by Brandon Bogel, and stage consultation by three-time Tony Award-winning Scott Pask (The Book of Mormon), on the minimal set of instruments and lights focused in front of a stage curtain.
Holmes’ irresistible charm and virtuosity, openness and honesty raise many questions about the nature of acting. Is he sincere with us now, or is he still playing a role (that of “Himself”), with the intention of making the audience sympathize with him and like him? And this is where the problem lies for an actor: can he ever really separate his inner self from the profession he has chosen, or it all merges into an “authentically performative” life? The brilliance of the show and its creator is just that; you never really know, but you are convinced of it.
Duration: 80 minutes, without intermission.
Yeah, but not now play until Saturday, October 16, 2021 [please note the closing date change], at SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, NYC. For tickets, priced at $ 29-48, call (212) 691-1555, or go in line. Under current COVID-19 policy, guests will be required to be fully immunized with an FDA or WHO approved vaccine and will be required to show proof of vaccination upon entry into the theater along with their valid ticket. The use of a mask is also required according to current CDC guidelines.