Singin’ in the ER

Is this absurd play destined to become a cult classic, or is it more of a swan song?

By Andrew Andrews

Sara Cook, Robin Brenner, Ruby Lynn Reyner, Levi Wise, Richard Craven, Joyce Miller, Mila Levine and Xan Aspero fill the cast of Singin’ in the ER. Original photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Singin’ in the ER is the first solo production from the legendary experimental theater diva Ruby Lynn Reyner, the Drama Desk winner and Emmy nominee who starred in John Vacarro’s 1960’s Play-House of the Ridiculous.

On a set that looks like the triage unit of M*A*S*H, Reyner and her cast perform this completely absurd satire based on her own emergency room experiences, for an audience of fans that have likely followed her career from its earliest days. Full of dated idioms and cultural references, puns and politically-incorrect humor, ER tracks the plotless events that unfold in the emergency room of St. Vickies hospital, especially surrounding Reyner’s character Amanda Reckonwith, a “famous has-been star” who needs the attending Dr. Shlong to figure out what’s going on in her vagina.

We knew going into this performance that it was going to be ridiculous; the only question was whether it would be entertaining. The premise itself has a lot of potential, and Reyner’s forty-five year career as a queen of the avant garde definitely set expectations for something approaching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or at least a step up from the genre-sharing Fort Dicks, The Musical, which I reviewed last year.

Accompanied by a live trio, the cast delivered their lines and overly-simple short songs wearing costumes that seem straight out of the Halloween store, as they rightly should. Although the performance held my interest better than The Invention of Tragedy (which I reviewed recently), I found the humor and dialogue to be more stale than the remains of Hervé Villechaize, who at one point is impersonated on the stage.

If you often find yourself reminiscing for the East Village Bohemia of the late sixties and can spare twenty bucks to indulge yourself, Singin’ in the ER might be your last chance to experience Theater of the Ridiculous from someone who’s been with it since its inception. But if none of that resonates with you, then this production probably won’t impress you much, either.


Andrew Andrews attended Singin’ in the ER at Theater for the New City Cino Theater in Manhattan on Friday, October 4, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.