Actress - Comedienne - Musician Hit Their Stride
Up Chick Creek is a trio of short one woman shows performed recently as a benefit for Santa Monica Playhouse. Barbara Cole, Lizzie Czerner, and Dinah Steward pitched in to show, in their very different styles, a medley of women finding themselves in their particular stations in life after much striving.
First up was Barbara Cole’s “Surviving Chrysalis,” directed by Amy Mayer. She clearly depicts a tired middle aged mom who has given her all to her kids. Now that they are getting older and less needy, she needs to rekindle her own dreams and creativity. Like many moms’, hers were put on the back burner. Now that her kids are more independent, she tries to find new meanings to life. She takes baby steps, but meanwhile has not yet found her new voice. Thus the “chrysalis” period, like a caterpillar just before becoming the butterfly, when it disintegrates into seeming nothingness.
The performance is naturalistic, relaxed, and humorous. The audience is taken in as a co-conspirator confidant as Cole admits she is gloriously happy – away from her kids. She has a way of making her punchlines sound like natural dialogue. She especially shines when she creates sketches of three women in her life. Each one is well drawn and well acted. It almost makes you wish her own character had a little more energy. She has playful fantasies but she stays on a low level, true to her theme -- one who is, well, depressed. One who cries every night, is bored, and looks at other more shallow women for meaning.
She is finally successful in completing a writing project at the end, and this gives her hope. She has pulled out of chrysalis and taken her first fluttery steps.
The second show is ”Crazy…In a Good Way,” directed by David Coe. The well endowed Lizzy Czerner first appears on stage as whoosie binocular spying lass in a low cut dress. We learn that she is spying on a lost love and the story is structured around that. But more than half the show is really about having big “magical” boobies. How she threw tantrums and scorned them as a girl who wanted to be like other girls in their training bras, how she hid under a sheet, and how as a younger woman, only admired a man who did not like her for her bosom. She makes great use of a huge circular puffy futon which she often throws herself on and into.
She prances around the stage like Betty Boop in her little voice and high heeled pumps, and a good deal of her comedy and writing is hilarious. When she has a first kiss she acts it out. She then tells the audience “for those of you who missed it, I’m going to play it again in slow motion.” And she does, to the delight of the crowd.
We go through her entire relationship with her beau, from her falling for him, to first kiss, to finding the g spot, to him telling her they are just “fuck buddies” and beyond. The beyond part where she continues to date him and hope for the best, and be more and more humiliated by the situation, although filled with the same great wit and act outs, is the part that becomes a bit tiring. A little editing and tweaking of the material would probably make it perfect. She is a delight to watch.
I must say that the 45 minute wait for the show to start, sitting in the musty theater, even though there was another darling performer, Ai Yoshihara (uncredited in the program except as a thank you), doing stand up before and in between the shows, made the whole night drag on a bit too long, especially with no intermission. We were pretty tired by the time we got to the third performance.
Dinah Steward in “The Hard Way,” directed by Martin Papazian, presents herself on a bare stage clearly and boldly. She at times impersonates a soldier who humiliated her and also taught her to be disciplined. Hers is a story of a dream vanquished through fear for many years. Even as a young woman she knew music and singing were the only things in her heart and yet she unsuccessfully went through the motions of a multitude of other jobs and activities to avoid facing up to it. It reminded me of a twelve step program for artists.
When Steward finally breaks into (original?) song, one can admire her talent and see that this is indeed her true self. Hers is a circuitous journey into accepting herself and acting on the strength of her own convictions. In that sense it is inspirational for other artists who might be shaky about following the great unknown path of their unique art. As with Czerner, a bit of editing might help pull it up to its highest potential. What I especially liked about this piece is the fact that, unlike Cole and Czerner who, by the end of their pieces get to the brink of a breakthrough, Stewart revels in hers and gives the audience plenty of time to admire her in her full singing glory.
All in all it was a wonderful evening, well appreciated by the almost full house in the Playhouse’s small theater.
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Santa Monica Playhouse Benefit Series
All proceeds benefit the Save the Santa Monica Playhouse Campaign
Santa Monica Playhouse
1211 4th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
For tickets call (310) 394-9779 ext. 1
or buy online
Photos courtesy Santa Monica Playhouse and the actors