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Paulanne Simmons

Hollywood Handyman Tells All in "All the Help You Need"

Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt in "Who Do You Think You Are" at 78th Street Theatre Lab. Photo by N. Rainford.

"All the Help You Need"
Directed by Christopher Fessenden
The 78th Street Theatre Lab
236 West 78th Street at Broadway
Opened Sept. 27, 2007
Thurs. thru Sat. 8 p.m.
$18 www.theatermania.com
Closes Oct. 27, 2007
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 5, 2007

I generally don't like plays that begin with lines like, "Who the fuck are you?" Opening with profanity is an attention-grabbing cheap trick that's become so commonplace one wonders why playwrights even bother with it.

This is an especially unfortunate start for "All the Help You Need," Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt's solo show recounting his adventures as a Hollywood Handyman, because both the story and the actor are quite engaging. Which is no doubt why the show won the 2004 Fringe Festival Award for Overall Excellence.

Working with director Christopher Fessenden, Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt has turned his true-life experiences as an actor supplementing his income by hiring himself out as a jack-of-all-trades into a monologue filled with humor and pathos. Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt plays not only himself, but also all the sad, funny and desperate people who hire him.

There's the prostitute, who lives in a house with a thick red rug and walls covered with mirrors, whips and restraints (it seemed a lot like an apartment this reviewer lived in for a year in Paris, except for the whips and restraints).The kind-hearted hooker takes care not of not only her clients, but also a sister who has Down Syndrome. There's a producer who has a nonagenarian mother with dementia. And there's a lesbian with a lover who was once abducted and now totes a gun.

After working with an orthodox Jew, Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt becomes the chief professional sukkah maker in Hollywood, perhaps even the only.

Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt is a gifted mimic who has a talent for accents. All his characters come to life with remarkable clarity. The only one whose personality remains a mystery is the handyman himself.

Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt tells the audience that he is married and has a daughter. He never mentions either one of their names. Nor does he talk about his relationship with them or how they feel about his job. In fact, as entertaining as it is, Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt's monologue seems as aimless as his constant shifting of the four boxes and the wooden plank that make up his set.

When the monologue takes a serious and frightening turn somewhere toward the end of the show, the audience is totally unprepared. If this dramatic ending was what Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt had in mind all the time, surely the audience should have had some hint of it sometime before the you-know-what hits the fan.

One almost has the impression "All the Help You Need" was written by two different playwrights or by a playwright who suddenly realized something was missing from his work and he'd better put it in quickly.

This is regrettable because the show really does have some wonderful moments. Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt's assortment of Hollywood characters, and their various problems which lead them to call on the handyman's services, are wacky and believable. But the too perfect little moral message he tacks on at the end needs more work if it is to be the unifying principle he needs.


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