Review: Lord Buckley, Remembrance of a Hipster Past




Jake Broder in “His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley.”

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Few things age as fast as slang — just imagine a play entirely in Valley Girl-ese. At least it could bank on familiarity, which is not the case with “His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley,” a show built on the half-forgotten verbal quirks of an entirely forgotten personality from the 1940s and ’50s. Dig the swinging world of the hip? Solid!

For more than 10 years now, Jake Broder has been on a quixotic mission to preserve the memory of Lord Buckley, a white Californian of British descent who sported formal tails and the occasional pith helmet, and delivered monologues in the jazz-tinged African-American argot of the time — his specialty was to translate familiar texts like the Gettysburg Address into “the beautiful zigzag semantic of the hip.”

Mr. Broder spares us the helmet at 59E59 Theaters, but he does spend the entire evening in character, performing some of Lord Buckley’s greatest non-hits spiced up with references to Steve Bannon, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Trump Tower.

Backed by a jazz trio and assisted by Michael Lanahan as a “hip news” reader, Mr. Broder, holding a cigarette that may or may not be wacky tobacky, throws himself into the routines. But the novelty of Buckley’s lingo grows thin quickly, culminating in a particularly dull bit about “the Nazz” — a.k.a. Jesus, “the coolest, grooviest, swingin’est, wailin’est, swingin’est cat that ever stomped on this jumpin’ green sphere.”

At this point Buckley, who died in 1960, is more interesting than his material. Mr. Broder might consider redirecting his passion into a biographical play.

Correction: December 16, 2016

An earlier version of this review misidentified the nationality of Lord Buckley. He was American, a Californian of British descent, not British-born.

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