Written by Paul Reubens and Bill Steinkellner
Additional Material by John Paragon
Starring Paul Reubens
Directed by Alex Timbers
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
Official Website

Reviewed by David Spencer

It should come as no surprise to anyone that The Pee Wee Herman Show at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (and there’s a juxtaposition for you!) is essentially an episode of writer-creator-performer Paul Reubens’ famous Saturday morning kids’ show (with sly adult appeal). Miss Yvonne, the King of Cartoons, Jambi the Genie, Chairy (the anthropomorphized chair), Globie (the anthropomorphized—well, you get it) and all the familiar others of similar surreal ilk are there to do their thing precisely as they did it on television, with Pee Wee (Reubens, of course) the gawky, nasal-voiced, perpetual adolescent as emcee.

    What may come as a surprise is that there’s virtually nothing meaningful in the way of theatrical expansion. A few jokes are a little more risqué, but more in the way of faking out the adults (ha-ha, you thought we meant something naughty, but really we meant something silly, now aren’t you ashamed of yourself?) which would seem to be part of the FUN (scream here; yes, that’s the secret word), but that aside, there’s nothing you wouldn’t have seen on an episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, not even an expanded or overarching storyline. This is simply a bigger than average episode—90 minutes worth—done live, with puppets and shamelessly low tek and transparent SFX. Fangeek heaven. As for theatre geeks…well, let’s put it this way: you simply cannot fault the packaging, The Pee Wee Herman Show is everything it’s always been, everything you expect it to be, and if you’re not in the loop, go to YouTube and check out the Pee Wee’s Playhouse clips and you’ll either get the idea or TMI, depending on your sensibility.

    Me? Up to a point I think Pee Wee and his universe are mad, brilliant creations—but a little goes a long way, and a “22 minute half hour” is plenty. So, you know, to each his Mik-a-lik-a-hi, Mik-a-heinie-ho…

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