Writer: Caitlin Bitzegaio
Director: Matt Gehrig
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
Writer and performer Caitlin Bitzegaio’s new one-woman show, Shrew-ed, at UCB Theatre in Hell’s Kitchen has a very charming premise. As mentioned in the press release, Bitzegaio encounters a group of aliens that are determined to kill off all the women on the planet. The reason for their intended gendercide? The aliens (presumably male or identifying with human men moreso than women) have received broadcasts of Earth’s media and have determined through those examples that women are detrimental to human life.
The significant plotholes in that conceit aside, the solution to the problem presented by these aliens is determined to be a one-woman show in which Bitzegaio sends up the tropes that are being held against womankind. Journeying from insurance commercials through widely known movies, and taking detours into Avril Laviigne and what it must be like to be a famed serial killer’s sister, Bitzegaio brings high energy and specificity to each character. She holds the audience’s attention well and drives the play forward as the sole live person onstage (interludes between the scenes utilize projections of some of the reference material to both bridge the narrative and allow for costume changes). Bitzegaio’s onstage comedic prowess is commendable and carries the thirty minute show effortlessly.
It is the content of the show and its execution where the production begins to falter. Satire is undeniably tough to pull off, and unfortunately the punches do not land as one may hope with the promising conceit of the show. The pop-culture examples from which these characters are drawn are undeniably problematic, but in giving each one only a few moments wherein the character in question is actively arguing the points that are being made, it becomes challenging to track the argument and barely scratches the surface of the misrepresentation being referenced. For the sake of brevity and punchlines, nothing goes too terribly deep, which results in a lack of palpable resonance.
In one particular scene, a woman on a first date talks about have the Avril Lavigne song “Sk8ter Boi” is about her. And amid several cleverly salient points is a takedown of Lavigne. And yes, the late nineties/early naughts pop punk princess has been the butt of many a joke over the past couple of decades. But when this character breaks down the details of how this song is directed at her, there are more than a few digs at Lavigne herself, including her failed marriages. Understanding comedic license, this still makes no sense in the broader sense of the play – if aliens see a woman dragging another woman through the mud, would that not reinforce their unfair stereotypes?
There is no simple answer to addressing the problem of stereotypes in media against any particular group. And one skit-format thirty-minute one-woman show certainly does not bear sole responsibility for transcending all the obstacles therein. But in these vignettes, the underlying humanity seems to get glossed over for the sake of the joke. It is a tough balance to achieve, and though Shrew-ed is moving in the right direction, the end result falls short of being out of this world.
Runs Until 26 June, 2019 | Photo credit: David Bluvband (design by Caitlin Sing)