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Monday, December 7, 2009

Hilarious 101 Humiliating Stories anchors PushPush repertory

click to enlarge SEXEDRETARIES: Kathy Skinner, Jasmine Singh, Jen Bates, Tae Eady, and Aimee McCoy star in The Secretaries at PushPush Theatre. Now Playing.
  • SEXEDRETARIES: Kathy Skinner, Jasmine Singh, Jen Bates, Tae Eady, and Aimee McCoy star in The Secretaries at PushPush Theatre. Now Playing.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." As a playful, avant-garde, all-female theater troupe in New York, the Five Lesbian Brothers seem immune to such self-esteem issues. Nevertheless, female inferiority complexes inform PushPush Theater's two productions of shows by the Five Lesbian Brothers, 101 Humiliating Stories and The Secretaries.

101 Humiliating Stories began as an autobiographical monologue by "Lesbian Brother" Lisa Kron, but PushPush co-founder Shelby Hofer performs the piece at the Decatur playhouse. It begins like a Spalding Gray-type monologue of comically shameful memories and experiences, many involving middle school, "geeky celebrity encounters," and mishaps with her personal appearance. She also wrestles with whether she should "out" herself at her high school reunion, and envisions how a closeted speech and an unnecessarily confrontational one could be equally disastrous.

The play itself, however, also turns out to be a humiliation for the actress. She loses her place, takes distracting cell-phone calls, interrupts herself and assures the audience that the emotions won't get too raw. Overall, she comes across as uproariously ill-prepared, with an intentional self-consciousness reminiscent of Ellen DeGeneres' early stand-up. Hofer and director Lawrence Keller work wonderfully well together: Hofer can sustain a pause for hilarious lengths to let the visual images or embarrassing implications sink in. 101 Humiliating Stories may be the most purely entertaining show I've ever seen at PushPush – and at 67 minutes, would make a great part of a "ladies night out."

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(Photo © Carson Weatherby for PushPush Theater)

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