Come Cough: “Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight”

Jim Ortlieb; photo by Nile Hawver

Presented by The Huntington 
A new play by John Kolvenbach
Featuring Jim Ortlieb and Melisa Pereya

January 20 – March 23, 2024
Huntington Theatre
Maso Studio 
264 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA

Seating is general admission. Arrive early!

Article by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, by John Kovenback, is running through March 23 at The Huntington and stars Jim Ortlieb as Man. It’s now playing in the Maso Studion at The Huntington’s 264 Huntington Ave space in Boston. Melisa Pereya plays a featured role.  

Attendees, please note: Maso Studio is reached by walking past the front doors of The Hunting, walking down a back alley, and through a backdoor of the building. The alley may have a car in it. The pavement is rough. If you need accessible access, please contact The Huntington staff for more information.

Sandwichboard signs point the way to the back door. Helpful Huntington representatives are just inside the building and give further instructions to the correct floor once you enter. 

The play’s summary begins with a quote from the show, “You’ve tried everything. Yoga. Acupuncture. Therapy. You floated in salt water in the pitch-black dark. You juiced, you cleansed, you journaled, you cut, you volunteered. You ate only RINDS for three days and nights. You reached out, you looked within. You have tried. And yet here you are.”

The Man (Ortlieb) says this line within the first 20 minutes of the play. He’s introducing his modus operandi. Man gathered us together to create community and to blur the line between presenter and listeners.   

SUIYHT is a show in which a Man (in a grey suit, tie, and brown brogues) chats at us for 65 minutes about all manner of things: dial tones, his mother, movie streaming, everything and nothing. We sit and watch him do this. We stand when he asks us to stand. We sit when he asks us to sit. Sometimes, we sigh because it’s what he requests. It’s all part of the performance. It’s meta. It’s postmodern. It’s fun. It’s not for everyone. 

SUIYHT is not my kind of show. It presents itself as a stand-up, one-man-show dramatic comedy, but it doesn’t commit to tear-jerky storytelling or light-hearted fluff. It’s an absurdist motivational speaking event in which the audience is motivated to participate in social convening. 

I admit, I was not in a good mood when SUIYHT started. (Seeing people leave the rest area without washing their hands is the worst consequence of all-gender restrooms. Ignorance is bliss.) I didn’t want to share an event space with unwashed strangers.  

I felt better after watching SUIYHT. It has moments of light cheer, and it acknowledges the shared sadness of humanity. It has group audience participation like clapping and brief singing; it’s fun to do silly, innocuous things as a group. Fun group activities uplift the mood. They can make a lasting impression on people unused to doing fun group activities. 

The show is pleasant; the audience makes a parasocial connection with Man (Ortlieb who is uncommonly charming in a production about nothing and everything.). It inspires pleasant emotions in the audience like casual sympathy and passing joy. That’s enough for some people. It’s not enough for me. That’s okay.

It’s not my cup of coffee. It might be yours. Both perspectives are fine. Multiple opinions can be true at the same time. You do you, and I’ll do the same. 

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