KPBS AIRDATE: JUNE 10, 1998
Two women in solo shows: One’s self-confession subtly touches you; the other is on a mission to knock you upside the head. Karen Trott makes you feel her humiliation and pain. Sherry Glaser makes you feel like you’re getting balled out by your mother. Well, she is, in her piece, the Mother of Us All — Ma, the one our eternal Father (“who art in Heaven”) seems to have forgotten to tell us about.
In her latest show, “Oh My Goddess,” Glaser confesses that, some time after the Creation (on which she has a VERY different, rather feminist take) things were going along just fine, so she thought she’d leave us kids with the Old Man for awhile. She took a little nap, and the next thing you know, 5000 years had passed and our global house is a mess. So, Ma’s come back to mop up. And she’s brought to us by a highly unlikely source — she’s channeled through Miguel, a sleazy, cholo waiter. He was so lost and clueless, he tried to run away from his dying father and loser life, but instead, he called the psychic hotline and cleared his energy field. He cleaned his chakras out so well, Ma just came right through. And from this zoot-suited, unfunny and long-winded opening act, Glaser transforms herself into the flesh-toned, body-stockinged, supremely buxom Supreme Being, who has a lot to get off her chest.
Ma is definitely the main attraction here. She’s part nag, part New Age guru, part religious proselytizer. She’s here to tell us just what to do and how to act, but she doesn’t want to give us orders or commandments — “so hostile,” she says, so she gives us 10 Rules to live by.
[CLIP: The Second Rule: “Don’t run……”]
Glaser can be very funny, and also repetitive and a little grating. She’s surprisingly winded and breathless in both roles. She has so much to say and do as Ma, she doesn’t really need Miguel, though it’s clear that she’s working out some of her personal life crises in that character, especially the details of her father’s death. Glaser is a hard act to follow, even for herself. Her last piece, “Family Values,” was a brilliant multi-character tour de force that had an early airing in San Diego, and went on to become the longest-running female solo show in Off Broadway history. This piece is much less humorous, and much more didactic. In fact, the Borscht Belt one-liners seem misplaced in the basically serious exhortation to clean up our acts, our planet and ourselves. The message is cleverly packaged, but it didn’t make me a True Believer.
Now, Karen Trott doesn’t claim to be any goddess. In her solo piece, “Guitar Lessons,” the effusively self-effacing singer tells tales of public humiliation and early career catastrophes. Everyone can relate to these painfully hilarious stories of what it takes to be a performer — or a person.
It all starts back in Lawrence, Mass., when Karen, at age 9, gets her first stringed instrument, and starts the hellish lessons referred to in her title. Trott is a hoot, playing a cast of characters ranging from her lazy, maddening, pick-chewing first music teacher, to her older and younger sisters, her aunt who’s a nun, herself at various ages (including a harrowing adolescence), and a TV guitar instructor who can’t manage to sing on-key.
[CLIP: The TV teacher: “Let’s move on to the E-chord…”]
Trott has a rich and lovely voice, which she uses to great effect, especially in dead-on imitations of her three diva-idols: Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Joan Baez. Aided by the direction of Lonny Price, her ingenuousness, genuine straight-ahead delivery and comic timing (not to mention her deliciously intense Massachusetts accent) are irresistible. Go see this show. In 70 short minutes, Trott relives more than her own personal and professional travesties; you’ll undoubtedly ache with recognition as much as with laughter.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1998 Patté Productions Inc.