‘Paul Stroili’s Straight Up With a Twist‘
at Lakeshore Theater
By Chris Jones
“To a woman,” the tall, thin, droll and Los Angeles-based Stroili opines with sadness, “a sensitive man in private in enticing, but a sensitive man in public is embarrassing.” Furthermore, Stoli laments at considerable length, a woman might happily break bread with a geek but she’ll choose to sleep with a rugby player. Every time.Most sensitive men carry around certain bitterness. Gentility is a rank disqualification for most of the necessary jockish clubs that help males get ahead. And as the comedian Paul Stroili notes with palpable pain in his autobiographical one-man comedy at the Lakeshore Theatre, the sweet, good-natured fellow’s compensatory expectation of closer relationships with women rarely pans out.
At least Stroili, a former Chicagoan who once had the soul-destroying job of doing warm-up for “The Jenny Jones Show,” has been able to spin this sad little personal paradox into a 90-minute solo comedy act that’s actually a good deal better than its silly title, “Straight Up With a Twist.”
Therein, Stroili spins a variety of self-deprecating anecdotes that lament the sad lot of the heterosexual man with a penchant for Windsor knots, croissants and savvy fabric choices. In other words, like many fine comedians, he laments the sad lot of himself.
Given the recent currency of words such as “metrosexual” and the interest in gay-straight cultural exchanges of various types, this show would seem to be quite of the moment. Still, Stroili is at pains to point out that his semi-fictional persona (which he curiously titles “Renaissance Geek”) is very much a heterosexual and was very much around long before any newspaper declared that straight guy could care about aesthetics.
All of this is trafficking in stereotypes, of course. But then this kind of gender-driven show – be it “Defending the Caveman,” “The Male Intellect” or “I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change” – always does. And people like it. It comforts us to know that other people go through the same lifelong travails – and it feels good to laugh at that stuff.
“Straight Up With a Twist” offers little that’s new or otherwise remarkable, but Stroili is a far smarter and more literate writer than most of those who have blazed this kind of comic trail. His well-crafted characters – ranging from his mother to his brother – are vividly realized. And whereas some “men are from Venus” profiteers can’t get past chatting about their ego-driven ideas, Stoli is a very decent actor willing to make himself vulnerable for laughs. And his show is funny, and quite charming – rather like a “Promise Keepers” for a man’s inner female.