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“The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers” reviewed

Anyone who grew up in the U.S. in the 1980s and ’90s likely has memories of being glued to the TV set watching Double Dare. The game show, which featured a pair of kid teams competing in messy stunts and answering trivia questions for the chance to win prizes, created a space within the Jeopardy set for young folks to feel included.

At the center of Double Dare was Marc Summers, its bright, enthusiastic host, a man who in many ways at the time was America’s dad. In a new autobiographical show at New World Stages, The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, audiences get a chance to learn about his journey to television, explore his highs and lows, and even take part in some Double Dare challenges.

Written by twice-Tony-nominated Alex Brightman (seen onstage this season in The Shark Is Broken and Spamalot) and directed by Chad Rabinovitz, the show, described in press materials as “part interactive game show, part memoir,” achieves its intentions by dazzling audiences who have an affection for Double Dare — giving them a chance to get acquainted with the man behind the TV magic.

We soon learn that Summers, who was raised in Indianapolis, was actually born Marc Berkowitz to a Jewish family. His foray into show business proved fruitful, landing the Double Dare job in his early thirties and enjoying its growing success. Summers also delves into additional TV-hosting gigs, including the hit Food Network series Unwrapped.

Brightman’s script engagingly weaves anecdotes about Summers’s time as a TV host with moments of audience participation that include stunts from Double Dare. Particularly moving is Summers’s brave discussion of personal struggles, including disclosing his diagnosis with obsessive-compulsive disorder at a time when there was major stigma surrounding mental illness.

Not surprisingly, Summers is a warm presence who dispenses wisdom with colloquial delivery, filling the intimate off-Broadway venue with plenty of heart. He is supported by a multifaceted design setup (scenery by Christopher Rhoton, lighting by Jeffrey Small, costumes by Scott Jones and sound by David Sheehan and Hide J. Nakajo) that swiftly transitions from direct address to game-show moments. The show is underscored by lively original music penned by Drew Gasparini (who composed for the TV series Smash).

For people who were raised in the Double Dare era or those simply interested in learning about the journey of a person who took to Hollywood and retained his sense of goodwill, The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers makes for an entertaining, heartwarming night of theater.