2009 Kansas City Fringe Review: Thursday, July 24th

The Miniature Housewife

So I saw this show, and I started off by being incredibly resistant to it, mainly because the audience was laughing pretty steadily throughout, and I don’t think I laughed once. It’s full of some pretty inventive sight gags, but I don’t find being zany necessarily the same thing as being funny. (The Zucker Brothers disagree.)

Okay, but once I shut out everyone else’s response and just tried to approach the show on its own merits, I found myself really fascinated with the whole thing. It’s basically a kind of dark satire of that image of the nineteen-fifties homemaker (one who is, in this case, literally married to her own house). So maybe it’s some association that I’m bringing to this, but I found the protagonist to be far too familiar – to resemble far too many women that I’ve known – if not broken women, then, well, breaking ones.

I found the several video sequences that punctuated the show to be particularly disturbing – images of a hideously made-up woman, in which she speaks through a series of fragmented close-ups. It really seemed to be effectively ripping to shreds that plastic conception of beauty.

The people around me seemed to find those images hysterical. There was also much physical business that won laughter, including a long dance sequence by the titular housewife. And while the movements she was making were absurd, I couldn’t find much funny in them: they didn’t emerge from joy, but everything about her conveyed misery and exhaustion. She smiles at us, but that smile is no more real than that of Marceau’s mask maker.

She’s also an extraordinarily versatile singer, shifting easily into a number of styles with incredible vocal control. And more importantly, the songs did exactly what theatrical songs are supposed to do: they revealed the internal life of the character, in a way that couldn’t be indicated by text.

I didn’t really buy the ending – I hadn’t seen anything leading up to that point to indicate to me that she was capable of taking the action she ultimately did. At least, it was inconsistent with the character and the story I was seeing, whether or not it was consistent with what they were doing. So, I clearly didn’t have the same experience as everyone else in the audience – but the experience I had was a compelling one. Easily my favorite show of the Fringe.

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