nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
August 14, 2009
As a reviewer, sitting in an audience of people who are obviously familiar with an artist's work and are applauding wildly before the play even begins can be nerve-wracking. The question presents itself: Will my assessment of a show be swayed in one direction or the other by what is going on in the audience? Luckily, there is no mistaking or being swayed when you're seeing something as good as Amy Heidt's Dominate Yourself!
Almost immediately, it was apparent that any applause and laughter were more than deserved by Heidt and the six wacky female characters she embodies over the course of an hour. I have rarely laughed so often or enjoyed myself so thoroughly at a play.
Dominate Yourself! takes the shape of a seminar started by former dominatrix Katherine, who preaches the "Top and Bottom" concept in how we manage our lives and achieve our goals. Each of the five "steps" to this success is introduced by a different graduate of the program. The two constants are Katherine herself, whom we see only on a prerecorded video, and Amy, her nervous assistant who hosts the seminar when a live Katherine fails to show.
Heidt's writing is funny to the level of genius, and her portrayal of all six characters is hilarious. She expertly distinguishes one from the other—the over-bubbly (with a dash of mania) Bianca from the hard-as-nails Maxine; the creepy Dannie, who barely blinks, from the zany Aussie Sheila. Heidt does this almost exclusively with changes in voice and physicality. Her only costume changes are the switching in and out of some perfectly ridiculous wigs.
It is a pleasure to see a show that has a little bit of everything, especially when that everything just clicks so well. The concept of the play is clever, and there is a message to be drawn from it, but it never takes itself seriously for a second. It is over-the-top and proud of it. Director Amanda Duarte, production designer Andrew Plourde, and Heidt know exactly what they are doing. The video segments, cheesy and groan-worthy in the way seminar videos invariably are, set the mood for the characters and their over-the-top personalities. The music choices are spot-on (remember Enigma?), and the lighting design by Nathan Lemoine is perfectly showy.
I recommend this show highly to anyone who likes to laugh.