"Approval Junkie" by Faith Salie at the Alliance Hertz Stage, April 5-25, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: Self-Approval Junk
This woman is a Rhodes scholar?!? In the one-woman show "Approval Junkie," Faith Salie concentrates on the non-academic portions of her life story, involving anorexia, a tissue-paper-thin acting career, a bad marriage, a good marriage, and children. She makes fun of stereotypical Buckhead mothers, but she seems to be one herself, although she moved to Los Angeles and New York to further her media career. Maybe the intention in dumbing down her life was to make the material more relatable to ordinary audiences, but for me it had the opposite effect -- it made the wealth and privilege of her life all the more glaring.
Faith Salie was coerced by Susan V. Booth into creating her one-woman show based on Salie’s same-titled book. There are several funny lines and phrases (such as "wasband" for ex-husband), so there are frequent chuckles, but I imagine the material makes for a better read than 90 minutes of theater time. It’s definitely targeted to middle-aged female audiences.
Alliance’s production on the Hertz Stage is highly professional on a technical level. Jack Magraw’s scenic design shows a wall of triangular and trapezoidal panels of various shapes and sizes, which Amanda Zieve’s lighting design paint with different colors (purple and blue with stars to start). The largest panel up center displays crude animated projections by Alex Basco Koch that start and end the show. Some of the panels move, a couple of which rotate to show mirrors, and couple of others that allow entry or exit of set pieces on a revolving track that circles the central low platform. There’s even an elegant porcelain tub that moves center stage and then turns circles. Amanda Watkins’ blocking keeps the action fairly fluid.
The set and lighting are all bells and whistles, but Ivan Ingerman’s costume design is simple: an elegant fuchsia silk blouse, plum slacks, and beige pumps that Ms. Salie wears throughout. Brandon Bush’s somewhat cacophonous musical score also emphasizes the one-dimensionality of a one-woman show.
Ms. Salie’s performance doesn’t exude the charm of a person thirsting for audience approval. There’s almost good-humored disdain in her audience interview segment drily intended to show good and bad interviewing techniques. It doesn’t really work as theatrical entertainment. The whole thing comes across as a highlights infomercial for sales of the book.