Maria Bamford: Plan B

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Review

During her hour, softly-spoken Maria Bamford does little more than impersonate her family members and a couple of vague acquaintances from her Minnesota hometown as she tells how they once went shopping at a Target superstore together, then went out for a meal.

As plots go, it's unlikely to get Steven Spielberg excited. But what Bamford has so spectacularly succeeded in doing is to create a delicately wonderful series of character studies that, together, paint a delightful portrait of life in a nondescript American town.

The idea came when, after a particularly brutal stand-up gig led her to the brink of breakdown, she decided to return home to gather her life together. While there, she thought the idea of such a return to family domesticity would make a great sitcom. The networks disagreed, so this live show is her Plan B. Hollywood's loss is Edinburgh's gain.

The way she captures her family, warts and all, is hugely impressive. She's a great mimic, recreating not only slight differences in accent, but tiny physical and verbal affectations that make her depictions so utterly real. Laughs are just as likely to come from a carefully-placed cough or barely-audible mutter as from well-written line.

Dermatologist Dad is all grunts, snorts and wheezes; demanding, tooth-picking sister Sarah is brusque, bossy and disarmingly direct; and an old high school enemy, now working behind the checkout, is the epitome of bored, apathetic bitterness. Bamford even goes as far as impersonating her pet pug, remarkably convincingly.

But top billing has to go to her mother Marilyn, a fretful, passive-aggressive parent obsessed with appearance, both physical and social, who fears the return of her unkempt, wastrel daughter will affect her standing. With impeccable politeness, she declares: 'Honey, we love you but you're not welcome at home.' Which prestty much sums it up.

This is a faultless, evocative performance from a quietly charismatic comic. The script is not overburdened with gags, but the laughs that do come emerge naturally from the rich, affectionate, and honest portrayal of these decent but flawed people, all in comfortable denial of their own weaknesses. It's a real transport of delight.

Steve Bennett

 

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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