'The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers' review — tackling life one physical challenge at a time

Read our review of The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers off Broadway, an autobiographical show performed by TV personality Marc Summers at New World Stages.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Entering New World Stages' Theatre 5 for The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers might fool you into thinking you're at a game show taping, not an Off-Broadway play, and in the '90s instead of the present. The 300-seat space has the no-frills vibe of a TV studio, here pimped out in loud reds, blues, and yellows — and bright green "slime" hanging from the rafters for good measure. A small TV hanging above center stage, playing '90s and '00s-era episodes of the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare and the Food Network show Unwrapped, reminds us the set (by Christopher Rhoton) is a loose recreation of the former.

We, therefore, are the studio audience. And we're here to watch Marc Summers, the host of both those nostalgic programs for a combined 20-plus years, relive his 72 years as the contestant in the game of life. He begins his theatrical autobiography with a conversation with God (voiced by Broadway actor Alex Brightman, who wrote the show's script based on conversations with Summers) about his purpose in life — then drops the pretention just as quickly. "I know I scared the hell out of you with that 'one-man show' crap," Summers tells us. "This isn't that kind of show."

It isn't and it is. The voice of God never resurfaces, but Summers largely sticks to the staged-memoir playbook: the stories of his childhood dreams to be a performer, the challenges he's overcome (none of which I mean to minimize: they include a car crash, cancer, and a lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder that, when first publicized, cost him jobs due to stigma), and the fulfilling life and career he built nonetheless. Elements of Double Dare, like its slime-soaked obstacle course, and Unwrapped serve as fairly expected metaphors for his ups and downs.

Even if Summers doesn't quite break free of one-man show conventions no matter how hard he and director Chad Rabinowitz try, he appears to be at least aware of them, and his knowing charm and undeniable wit buoy the show to its heights. Twice, Life and Slimes morphs into an interactive game show with volunteers from the studio audience, who engage in trivia, physical challenges straight out of Double Dare, and unscripted banter from Summers.

To an audience member who told Summers she hails "from here," he quipped, "Right here? I love what you've done with the place." He reminds even those of us not of the Double Dare generation why he's a natural-born host, ace at working a room for laughs, gasps, and compassion, all wholeheartedly deserved.

And for the masses who did grow up watching Summers on TV, Life and Slimes will likely feel like a reunion with an old friend. Multiple people in my audience, some of whom sported T-shirts with Double Dare-inspired sayings, had their own kids in tow. It was a heartening sight: Summers, who clearly remains earnest and genial even after multiple debilitating battles, is the kind of person that deserves to stay beloved and timeless. Or should I say slimeless.

The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers is at New World Stages through June 2. Get The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Photo credit: Marc Summers in The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers. (Photo by Russ Rowland

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