In this one-woman play by Dennis Bush we meet Kate Carden, a self-styled expert on male/female relationships. Skillfully portrayed by Cincinnati Playhouse acting intern Kelsey Torstveit, Kate is as confident as she is profane, pronouncing truisms about sexual dynamics as illustrated by one outrageous personal anecdote after another. Yet by the end of the play, we realize that, to her at least, there is more rationalization than truth in her philosophy.
It starts innocently enough. Kate recounts graphic moments from her relationships, most of them funny and some wildly so. There’s a lot of talk about women needing to accept their sexual equality with men. She casually undresses to her bra to underscore that she is in control of how people will look at her body and along the way, she’s so comfortable that it makes perfect sense.
But there is a flip side. Things go wrong, almost always unexpectedly. The power point projector in the theater doesn’t work and she has to improvise. We hear about incidents with her family, with boyfriends and at a party. We learn that she’s been told (sometimes expressly) that she needs to embrace those unexpected moments to find freshness in her life.
This is when things become most interesting, because the play (and Torstveit in particular) sets us up. So much of the script and her delivery are light, bawdy and funny that the other moments — when we see how Kate has learned about heartbreak — take us completely by surprise. We learn that, for Kate at least, there really are no surprises: Despite her bravado, she’s learned that one should expect to ultimately be disappointed and hurt.
While this might sound depressing, it’s not. It just depends on whether one sees life as a glass half-full rather than half-empty. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kate has decided to be optimistic, and Torstveit’s fine performance achieves the difficult balance between showing us her well-crafted armor with an occasional, tragic glimpse at the heartbreak beneath it. While I enjoyed the play’s humor, it was the tragic moments — each of which was startling — that gave the play its depth and made me think about it well after leaving the theater.
Ed Cohen is a freelance director, with much of his recent work with CCM, NKU and small professional theatres around town. In his parallel life, his is a trial attorney in downtown Cincinnati.
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