Review | Rachel Bloom confronts COVID in the midst of comedy

Death Let Me Do My Show_Emilio Madrid_1
Rachel Bloom in ‘Death, Let Me Do My Show.’
Photo by Emilio Madrid

Who is a more disruptive audience member: Lauren Boebert or the Grim Reaper?

Boebert, the notorious Colorado congresswoman, made headlines last week after surveillance footage emerged of her being removed from a performance of the national tour of “Beetlejuice” for disruptive behavior that included vaping, singing, and using a recording device. On her way out of the theater, she argued with staff and flashed the middle finger.

On the other hand, Death emerges as an unexpected audience member, and eventually a supporting character, in Rachel Bloom’s new comedy/cabaret show, in which silly gags give way to COVID trauma – so much so that it even goes by the title “Death, Let Me Do My Show.”

Bloom, the 36-year-old performer and writer best known for the musical sitcom “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” was last seen on the New York stage in early 2017 in an absolutely superb one-night concert production of “Crazy for You” at Lincoln Center which really ought to have transferred to Broadway. In 2019, following the end of the final season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Bloom was pregnant and working on a new comedy show that she expected to tour the following year – until COVID hit.

At first, Bloom’s new show is (supposedly) the merrily silly one she had planned to do pre-COVID. She emerges in a glittery suit to the tune of the title song from “Space Jam,” awkwardly dribbling a basketball that she then tosses into the crowd. She then segues into an explicit song about a tree that smells like a certain sexual fluid.

All seems to be going to plan until a heckler (who appears to be David Hull, who appeared on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) emerges out of the crowd and claims to be Death, who proceeds to engage in a back-and-forth dialogue with Rachel and eventually sings a power ballad that randomly pays tribute to “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The confrontation forces Rachel to address the difficult birth of her daughter (who was born with a buildup of fluid in her lungs, requiring placement in a neonatal intensive care unit) and the loss of her friend Adam Schlesinger, who was one of the first celebrities to die from complications due to COVID. (Schlesinger, an accomplished singer-songwriter, wrote the music for the musical comedies “Cry-Baby” and “The Bedwetter.”)

The moral of the story, predictably, is that we cannot pretend like COVID never occurred and everything can be normal again. (Nonprofit theater companies, which are struggling to win back former subscribers, are becoming painfully familiar with this lesson.)

Although well meaning, Bloom’s show (directed by Seth Barrish, who has done excellent work with comedian Mike Birbiglia) has difficulty reconciling her freewheeling, quirky spirit with the downbeat, confessional content and portrait of struggle that overtakes it.

Considering the general excellence of the songs featured throughout “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” one hopes that Bloom’s next project will be an original musical.

Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., RachelBloomShow.com. Through Sept. 30.