Remember the 1990s? Those were the days before cell phones, when VCRs were in style and Clinton was in the White House. Thanks to Charlie Gross, I felt one with the bygone decade. The overlong title of Mr. Gross’s show, “How I Found an Affordable Apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Without Really Trying” (a reference to the Broadway musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” ‑ Mr. Gross’s “night job” was as a theatre reviewer), turned out to be a bit of a misnomer. Although Mr. Gross begins by explaining how he found himself an affordable apartment on the UWS, he moves on to stories of his life that stemmed from the fact that he was able to find this apartment. Over the course of a joyous 85 minutes, Mr. Gross recounts his life as a single young professional living in Manhattan. He consistently summons the ghost of his beloved first car, an 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme named Kid. He found a parking spot for it, a near‑impossible feat, though the spot was ninety blocks away from his residence. He held onto the car until driving it literally posed a hazard to his life. He reminisces about finding love in Manhattan. First, there was Rachel, the girl in his apartment building who happened to be doing laundry on the day he toured it. Then there was Bonnie, the sweatpants‑wearing NBC accountant who was also en route to do laundry when they met. Before Mr. Gross even explains the downfalls of these romantic ventures, his delivery screams quixotism. He finally admits finding forever love through his Upper West Side synagogue. Coincidentally, although he and his eventual wife didn’t know each other as children, their families attended the same synagogue in Bergen County, New Jersey. At this point, Mr. Gross resolves that it’s time for one more story, and he delights with a brief coda about his family’s love of New York parades. “How I Found an Affordable Apartment on the Upper West Side…” is, in the best sense, not a show. It’s an uplifting and humorous conversation between Mr. Gross and his lively audience. His comic timing is impeccable, and the piece resembles a nostalgic monologue given by a grandfather or an uncle on Thanksgiving (or, more accurately, a Jewish holiday, such as Passover or Rosh Hashanah) about enjoyable times gone by. Mr. Gross’s show feels just like family anecdotes, which meant that his few small line flubs didn’t detract. Instead, they only heightened his persona as a comfortable performer, a relatable figure, and, more importantly, a simply likeable person. Mr. Gross is full of light, happiness and laughter. His performance is a reminder that even if you’re unsure where your life might be going, it has a funny way of working itself out in the end.
“How I Found an Affordable Apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Without Really Trying” Written and Performed by Charles Gross Directed by Miriam Liba Gross October 10 at 9 PM Photo: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Festival Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
MIKEY MILLER is an actor, writer, and tutor based in Jersey City, NJ. He received his BA in English with a minor in theatre arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Since then, Mikey has acted in off-Broadway and regional productions and worked as a freelance writer for publications such as StageAgent and ShowTickets.