Eliza Skinner Is: Shameless
Thu May 24 2007
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Lingering onstage during most theatrical performances is the silent scream of actors begging, “Look at me! I’m pretty! Love me!” Eliza Skinner Is: Shameless succeeds where other one-person comedies wouldn’t even go: Instead of simply concealing it, Skinner puts raw, repellent desperation front and center. Through a collection of stand-alone scenes, she portrays three attention-hungry women recklessly manipulating those around them.
The tragedy makes for vivid comedy. Both in her writing and in her nuanced performance, Skinner wrenches humor from awkward circumstances and cringe-inducing comments. Karen, an overbearing modern-day mom, hopes to impress her daughter’s new African-American college roommate by letting her feel her boob job. After giving up on the venture, Karen suffers through several moments of silence before offering, “I loved Martin Luther King—so sad about that. You know what happened, right?” Then Debra, a young mother in search of her youth, seduces a 14-year-old neighborhood boy in her minivan. After slowly, erotically and hilariously consuming a Go-Gurt, she suddenly spins around to scream, “Shut up, Amber!,” revealing the toddler who’s been in the car seat all along.
Rather than simply mocking these poor souls, Skinner imbues them with pathos and roots out the sources of their sadness—at times, to touching effect. Still, as the actions of Amy, the boy-crazy party girl, suggest in the show’s final moments, these women will never find resolution; no amount of love could ever be enough. It’s the process of asking for it they feed on—ah, actors. In other words, do look at Eliza. She is pretty. And you will love her.—Jane Borden