'MazelTov Cocktail'  a strong dark comedy
Jamie M. Fox wrote and stars in ‘MazelTov Cocktail,’ now playing off-Broadway at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre in New York.

NEW YORK - When the going gets tough, the tough make lists.

"MazelTov Cocktail" is an intense, personal and often funny one-woman show, written and artfully performed off-Broadway by comedian Jamie M. Fox.

Billed as an autobiographical story, the dark comedy takes the audience through highlights - and lowlights - of a few hectic days in the life of Alyssa/Lissy, a young personal assistant with low self-esteem who is dealing with the selfish actress she works for and a major family crisis.

Lissy needs time off from working for Cheryl, her self-centered boss in Los Angeles, so she can go home and help her parents cope with the trial of her drug-dealing older brother.

Fox, whose parents live in Galloway Township, engagingly portrays all these characters - except her brother - plus a few colorful female characters in her hometown. She captures some personas with clever nuances, while others are more broadly drawn. Her facial expressions are wonderful to watch, as Lissy's carefully ordered routine begins to unravel, and she faces up to the unreasonableness of many people in her life.

Lissy experiences increasing dissonance as she explains the hyper-organized details of her duties working for Cheryl, while fending off absurd phone calls from her mother. With a clever twist of her mouth, Fox easily becomes Cheryl, parodying a certain type of yoga-embracing, dog-loving, narcissistic Hollywood celebrity.

Back home, Lissy's parents are unable to face the reality of their son's crime or his possible incarceration. Lissy finally begins to lose her composure as she attempts to discuss the prison situation while they focus on what to order in a restaurant.

The scenes and dialogue are reminiscent of any family that doesn't like to face unpleasant situations, as well as a household where one sibling has all the parents' attention. The only wrong note is Fox's interpretation of Lissy's father, who seems more like a caricature than a real person.

Under the direction of Maria Mileaf, Fox works through carefully orchestrated vignettes, changing characters with increasing frequency. The set by Sandra Goldmark contains a marvelous array of organizational tools, lined up neatly on shelves, that become much less orderly as Lissy's life gets more complicated.

"MazelTov Cocktail" runs at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre through Feb. 20.

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