Capital Fringe Festival: ‘Please Don’t Beat Me Up’
By Nelson Pressley
Sunday, July 10, 2011
You need to know that things have worked out okay for Adam Ruben, the writer-performer of the almost painfully autobiographical Fringe show “Please Don’t Beat Me Up: Stories and Artifacts From Adolescence.” And they have. Ruben, 32, has a PhD in microbiology. He’s married and has a young child.
Ruben’s solo show might be hard to take otherwise. Emotionally, sometimes it’s too unfiltered; where comics and dramatists provide aesthetic distance on the debacles of youth, Ruben only offers time. The bashful Ruben’s almost too casual about getting beaten up as a kid, but then you’re almost too close to his intense adolescent self-pity at such heartaches as being left out of the dance.
The upside is that some of Ruben’s personal artifacts are compelling and hilarious. He has lots of goofball video of himself as a hammy kid and the cassette diary he made when he had a crush on a girl named Liz. The young Ruben’s verbal precociousness and detailed strategy for How to Get That Girl are really endearing. He also has the complex mathematical chart he used to calculate his odds of edging out two rivals. You don’t see that every day.
The show is not quite artful, but it’s not calculatedly raw, either, despite a blunt closing diatribe about how lame our tactics against bullying are. Still, surf cable TV on any given night, and then try to argue that this sort of naive self-exposure isn’t culturally valid. Besides, you have to love a kid who, in a moment of darkness, could write, “It’s the noodle that comes up when I stir my thought soup.”