I wore the proper bib for The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart, written by and starring Ryan Raftery at Joe’s Pub. It not only looked flawless, it caught all my dribble as I shrieked with laughter throughout.
Raftery specializes in twistedly driven American icons, having done deft spoofs of Anna Wintour and Andy Cohen, zeroing in on their pivotal moments of insecure ambition. This show (directed by Jay Turton) is his best one yet. Using rejiggered show tunes plus pop songs by Adele, Beyonce, and Alanis, it starts with Martha being ushered into jail for insider trading (“I was locked up for five months, like milk-fed veal”), then flashes back to teenage Martha, who has a great cookie recipe and a sort of gestapo-like charm in hawking the results.
She’s eventually courted by Kmart (“Partner with Kmart?… I’d rather put a cigarette out in my ass,” Martha replies, though she goes for it, in order to bring her incredible taste level to the masses). Martha also hooks up with TV and book deals, ultimately reigning over her own empire as America’s richest self-made female nightmare.
Along the way, she neglects her daughter (a funny and touching Amanda Sykes), ends up in a lesbian yarn-making duet with her cellmate (an utterly fabulous Jerome Bell), then revivifies her career by teaming with a pot smoking Snoop Dogg (Jerome Bell again), a combo that’s so sick it works.
Best of all are Martha’s fourth-wall breaking asides to the audience. (“Are you having a good time? Good—well, tell your face”; “Can someone bring me a fucking bobby pin?”) While I hear Martha can actually be quite nice and professional to work with, the show satirically portrays her as a necessarily tough and strident virago, screaming about the wrong wine, the wrong fork, and the wrong dessert. (“It matters to me!”) She just wants everything to be, you know, right, and Raftery is full-throttle persuasive as he belts, barks and slow-burns out the role.
Meanwhile, as Martha struggles to regain a new audience, she’s not bothered by the downscale Paula Deen or Rachael Ray, but by the goopy Gwyneth Paltrow, who, she says “won the Oscar by blowing Harvey Weinstein.” Pause. “It’s been in the script since August.” If it plays near you, please see this Martha. It’s the right show—and I haven’t even told you about the sci-fi ending.