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101 Humiliating Stories

a Monologue
by Lisa Kron

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 3996

SHOWING : March 14, 2011 - March 23, 2011



In 101 Humiliating Stories, Lisa Kron dives deep into the universal experience of humiliation. Performer Shelby Hofer shares a series of humiliations past, present, and future. An invitation to perform at her high school reunion in Lansing, Michigan, triggers another series of anxiety-filled fantasies. How will she, a lesbian East Village performance artist, cope with her Midwestern classmates? 101 Humiliating Stories is evocative, moving, and, overall, hilarious.

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Schadenfreude Lite
by Dedalus
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Before I pull out my bag of quibbles and criticisms, let me say straight up that Shelby Hofer is a treasure, and that I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend an hour than to watch her slip into one of Lisa Kron’s monologues. She treats her audience like her best friends, pulling us into her confidence and having us wryly share her stories and embarrassments. She is the reason to see “101 Humiliating Stories,” and, to be honest, for me that’s reason enough.

That being said, I had the feeling after this show that playwright Kron opted to play it safe with this one, opted to tone down her usual snarky observations and caustic stream-of-consciousness style. Yes, there’s a lot of fourth-wall shattering, but that’s the extent of her experimental exercise here. There’s nothing at all risky in this monologue, nothing that made me respond as favorably as to her other works, like “Well” and “2.5 Minute Ride.” Yes, she’s in a lighter vein here, but the autobiographical details aren’t as hard-edged. The stakes just aren’t high enough.

I think it comes down to the difference between “humiliation” and “embarrassment.” None of the anecdotes in this piece can be called truly humiliating. Yes, they are embarrassing, the sort of stories we tell years after the fact with a rueful smile on our faces. You know, stuff like “geeky celebrity encounters,” walking through the office with your skirt tucked into your tights, spending the boss’s petty cash on make-up, that sort of thing. We all have stories that are similar or even identical. In fact, in many instances, she seems to be proud of her actions, proud of the effect she has had on her acquaintances.

For me, humiliation implies high (even permanent) stakes. Falling asleep at the wheel and causing serious injury. Being beaten by a bully in front of someone you love. Being publically ridiculed in the mass media. Things with consequence.

Here it’s all nudge-nudge wink-wink wasn’t I being foolish? It’s Schadenfreude-lite! From Lisa Kron, I was expecting something darker, something to make us laugh at something truly not-funny, then making us ashamed of our laughter. Her works usually put her out on an emotional limb, where she turns our laughter into a saw.

Now that I’ve said all that, I have to go back to my first paragraph. Shelby Hofer is a treasure, and I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend an hour than to watch her slip into this monologue. In spite of my misgivings about this particular play, Ms. Hofer makes it go down as smoothly as a cool Pinot Grigio on a hot summer night. Her stories are amusing, and her wry self-deprecation carries us through the most embarrassing situations.

It’s not a long play, just an hour or so, but Ms. Hofer makes it zing by even quicker, giving us a glimpse into the character of “Lisa Kron” that is pleasant and, well, safe. She commands the mostly bare stage, even making a few side-trips into the house to borrow pens or have cell phone conversations, or, to, well, just to be closer to us,

The irony of this production is that I left the theatre with a wide smile on my face, but, by the time I was home, I had forgotten most of the stories. Ms. Kron has written a monologue that is the theatrical equivalent of “donuts for dinner” – pleasant now, but not particularly filling. A snack to amuse rather than to feed the emotions.

Thank goodness there was Shelby Hofer to deliver it!

-- Brad Rudy (BK



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