"Character comedy" is often a euphemism for "no belly laughs." Sit 'n' Spin was character comedy, but it had lots of belly laughs. These laughs though came less from zingy one-liners than from a pitch-perfect evocation of characters whose aspirations were a little higher than their grasp. The scenes and monologues that made up the evening are the work of Anne Moore and Jennifer Rau, two remarkable performer/writers.
As writers the two have a unified voice. Their characters speak straightforwardly, distinguished by what they say rather than by the ticks and mannerisms that pass for characterization in sketch comedy. Each character is allowed an intelligence, even when they are street crazies. As performers, however, each woman has her own unique gifts. Whether playing a grandma in a Wonderbra, a 7-year-old girl insisting that she will die, a crazed Billy Idol fan, or a prom queen lamenting, "Your boyfriend turned my boyfriend gay," Rau was able to simultaneously project who her characters were pretending to be and who they were underneath. Moore is a talented physical comedian who can also use her skills to move an audience. Simply touching her hand to her hair, she conveyed the fragility of a "tough" ad exec who hoped a new do would give her the confidence to present a doomed ad campaign. ("Spartan Flavored Condoms -- Do I lick it or do I stick it?")
Director Karen Kohlhaas seemed to recognize that Moore and Rau's material was funny enough not to need any help. Instead, she emphasized the dignity of the characters and the depth of their feeling. The ad exec piece mentioned above was typical of how the surface giddiness always balanced some darker undercurrent. With set designer Rick Gradone, Kohlhaas stripped bare the cavernous stage of the Atlantic Theater. A single diner stool sat center stage with an odd-shaped platform at the back. The bareness was deceptive. The platform moved and achieved a surprising variety of scale and shape. Kohlhaas staged the work as a series of contained tableaux around the space, and the simplicity allowed the small gestures and subtle changes of tone to have a big impact.
Jodi Sheeler had a thankless task, singing a few of her own songs during the evening. Her lyrics could not match the wit of the sketches; and though her voice was finer, it lacked the bite of Moore and Rau singing in character.
The glow of Gradone's red-orange costumes and Robert Perry's acid-sharp lighting magnified the effect of each small drama by turning the performers into larger-than-life figures.
Copyright 1996 Michael Yawney
Return to Home Page