'The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers' Review: A Daring and Surprisingly Moving Play for Family Audiences

The legendary television host bares his soul through this smartly-written one-man show on the Off-Broadway stage
The Life and Slimes of Marc Summer - Photo Credit: Russ Rowland
The Life and Slimes of Marc Summer - Photo Credit: Russ Rowland /

There's nothing slimy about this Off-Broadway play! The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, a 90-minute, no-intermission one-man show that stars television host, announcer, and personality Marc Summers, is now running in New York. Described as "Part interactive game show, part memoir," the Off-Broadway show highlights the life story of Summers. The performer is known for his tenure on the Nickelodeon series Double Dare, a game show with a few slimy surprises for contestants, being the host of Unwrapped for Food Network, and the executive producer of Dinner: Impossible and Restaurant: Impossible.

When you enter the theater, you're greeted with a darkened stage with only a mounted television playing old commercials and episodes of Double Dare as you make your way to your seat. An usher informs you that you have an opportunity to be considered for audience participation by writing your name down and putting it in a container. If you choose to accept, you're in for a treat. Oh yes, you read that right. There is audience participation involved in this show. If you don't consider yourself one of the brave ones, don't worry, I swear that it's all voluntary. There were also some kids in the audience who were laughing along at all of those audience-focused parts, which means for those anxious about bringing their young ones to the theater, feel free to bring the whole family.

Now, moving into what to expect in the play, which starts off with Summers describing the beginning of his life, such as where he was born and details his early interest in magic and entertaining right off the bat. He takes the audience through the multiple stages of his life. Summers has seen it all as he talks about his admiration for television greats like Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson and working during his formative years as a CBS page on shows like The Carol Burnett Show, The Price is Right, and others. He portrays multiple awkward encounters behind the scenes and in his own personal life including his private and later publicized struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is discussed throughout the entirety of the play.

One question I had going into the play was if Summers would mention his involvement or even just general thoughts of the Double Dare reboot which aired on Nickelodeon from Jun. 2018 to Dec. 2019. He does, in fact, make mention of the contemporary version. This reboot was presented by YouTuber and comedian Liza Koshy. Although the show had a short run, he expressed appreciation for the offer to return to the storied franchise as an announcer.

The play remains playful yet poignant throughout. I mean, it is his life story, with a few embellishments here and there to keep the entertainment factor up, The moments that play on the heartstrings are coupled with real-life reactions from the audience, myself included. If you don't do your own research on his story, everything that takes place during the course of the show feels almost fictional. While this show is advertised as "one-man," a few other "characters" appear on stage with the television host including production assistants who move set pieces around and help Summers as he facilitates the challenges on stage. Summers initiates some musical moments, and unlike a live orchestra playing at the bottom of the stage in a pit, an on-stage secondary character pops in a few times to provide some instrumentals to back up Summers' storytelling. It was definitely enjoyable to see.

By the mid-way point, there is a fear that the show is heading towards a darker path -- and it does. This plays into the major themes of this play which are gratitude, humility, and recognizing that life will throw a ton of curve balls at you in order to keep always keep you second guessing every decision you make. So what happens at the end? Well, I don't like to spoil the ending of anything, but Summers openly admits that he is still dealing with his OCD. It comes and goes; but as the play ends, you would be lying to yourself if you didn't even attempt to empathize with what he's gone through. There are a lot of life lessons jammed pack in this play and most of those lessons deal with following your dreams, not letting life get you down, and know that it's okay to play in the mud sometimes, or in this case... A vat of slime.

The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers is running through June 2 atNew World Stages - Stage Five in New York City.

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