🎭 A Narcissistic Exercise | “Kate” @ Pasadena Playhouse

Kate (Pasadena Playhouse)Color me unimpressed. Color me confused.

I guess I should have been warned when Kate’s name was everywhere around the theatre, and her image was everywhere, and she was posing the lobby wanting people to ignore her. Her image was all over the men’s room, ferrchristssake. Then there’s her “Statement from the Artist”, which includes this: “The theatre requires a sacred corporal exchange – a sense-based modality of transference that demands physical presence.” WTF?

This was an exercise in a person wanting to be on display, who was seemingly in love with her own image.

On display she was, for 85 long minutes.

Perhaps I wasn’t her audience. Perhaps I just don’t get her humor. There were folks in the audience laughing uproariously. I laughed about 3 times, overall. She reminded me of Conan O’Brien, someone else who I don’t find funny at all. She was all exaggerated facial expressions, self-examination, and pointless dialogue. It is a form of humor I don’t understand.

The NY Times wrote of this show, when it was in New York,

Impatient, stylized, cerebral, Berlant’s comedy has never been for all markets. Nearly a decade ago, my colleague, Jason Zinoman, an early champion, described her as “not to everyone’s taste.” Marc Maron, on a recent episode of the WTF podcast, introduced her this way: “She’s an odd presence. But funny.” Her comedy resembles an infinite recursion, a hall of mirrors in which the reflections rarely flatter.

Note: The NY Times link is one of my “Gift Article” links, so you can read the whole thing. It does a good job of explaining what she is doing, although not everything mentioned is in the Pasadena Playhouse lobby. As they put it:

…she is a comic for all the girls out there who think too much… The confessional solo is a hallowed form downtown; Berlant desecrates it from every side. She plays with its creeds the way that a cat might toy with a mouse — teasing, batting, swiping, mauling. […] how you respond to “Kate” may have to do with how much you enjoy seeing theatrical tropes savaged. … The accents, the miming, the assumption of multiple characters, the buildup to some terrible trauma, all are satirized here.

So I understand now what she was trying to do. It still didn’t land with this audience goer. Listening to some of the folks as we left, we weren’t alone. Yet there were others for who it landed in a way they understood. I just don’t get what they saw.

But there are many things in this world I don’t get. #include <political-reference>

Kate certainly wasn’t for this theatregoer, who tends to prefer traditional stuff. I’m not a standup comedy person (I don’t go to comedy clubs).  I’m not into the avant guard or overly expressionistic comedy. I just don’t know what to make of this, other than it wasn’t something I liked, or would care to see again. Sometimes, theatre hits it out of the park. Sometimes, they get a base hit. Sometimes, they swing and miss, and swing and miss, and swing and miss, and ….

If Kate Berlant and her style is your thing, enjoy. We didn’t.

One additional note: The program for Kate is a similarly narcissistic, with her picture plastered everywhere. Hell, her show starts with the projected background showing links to her Amazon series, and showing her IMDB credits. But the creative team bios? Those are relegated to a QR code. That’s really poor form; a trend I don’t like. Websites go away or are reorganized away; printed program are a record of shows forever. I pay for my tickets; I should get a program with bios. There’s an Equity logo on this show; Equity shouldn’t put up with this. As a side note: The code takes you to https://pasadenaplayhouse.ihub.app/c/kate/feed?postTypeId=whatsNew .

Second note to the Pasadena Playhouse: That’s the other problem with QR codes: You have no idea where you are going — and unless you have your scanner set up to not automatically take you there, they are a cybersecurity nightmare. Well, even if you do, they are, because you can’t assess whether is a website is safe based on a URL alone. You also disenfranchise your audience (in that it is difficult to scan a QR code that is embedded within an online program) , and QR code programs encourage audiences to play with their phones during a show. Traditional printed programs, please.

Warning: There is an intense strobe light sequence in this show. Be forewarned if you insist on going to this show, and you are at all sensitive.

Kate. Runs until February 11. Tickets available through the Pasadena Playhouse, and likely through your favorite discount source.

Cast: Kate Berlant (Kate).

Above the Line Production: Kate Berlant (Writer); Bo Burnham (Director)

Below the Line Production and Creatives: Dots (Scenic Design); Amith Chandrashaker (Lighting Design); Palmer Hefferan (Sound Design); Lindsay Jones (Stage Manager); Brad Enlow (Technical Director / Production Supervisor); Davidson & Choy Publicity (Press), David S. Franklin (Asst. Stage Manager).

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Administrivia: I am not a professional critic. I’m a cybersecurity professional, a roadgeek who does a highway site and a podcast about California Highways, and someone who loves live performance. I buy all my own tickets, unless explicitly noted otherwise. I do these writeups to share my thoughts on shows with my friends and the community. I encourage you to go to your local theatres and support them (ideally, by purchasing full price tickets, if you can afford to do so). We currently subscribe or have memberships at: Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre; Broadway in Hollywood/Pantages Theatre; Pasadena Playhouse; Geffen Playhouse (Mini-Subscription); 5-Star Theatricals. We’re looking for the right intimate theatre to subscribe at — it hasn’t been the same since Rep East died (it’s now The Main, and although it does a lot of theatre, it doesn’t have seasons or a resident company), and post-COVID, most 99-seaters aren’t back to doing seasons (or seasons we like). I used to do more detailed writeups; here’s my current approach.

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