nytheatre.com review by Anoush Froundjian
July 26, 2006
Margaret Liston heats up the stage in MentalPause, the hormonal one-woman show about a woman going through the change of life and adjusting to the warmer temperature. Liston is also the play's author and choreographer, working up a sweat as she asks us "Is it HOT in here or is it ME?"
Her body—her dancing, her essence—is the powerhouse of the play. She uses her instrument beautifully to illustrate her text. And her ability to move her body while singing and talking is impressive. The text, however, seems desperate for a laugh. Her exaggerated facial expressions give that away, and parts of the play are trivialized by Liston's sarcastic comments to the audience and eye rolls. She jumps through hoops—making me annoyed by her character—rather quickly. When the ovaries dry out, apparently, so does good comedy.
Why do women resort to silliness when their intent is to convey something more serious? I wanted to like her character more and believe her and ignore how I Love Lucy it was trying to be. It's as if Liston were a commentator for Menopause, as if Menopause were the honest character that forgot to show up. MentalPause works better when it's not a comedy. Only when the silliness dies down does the play strike a chord, and the character's honesty comes out. And Liston wastes so much time looking for her keys.
For the audience members who identify with her difficulties, she is definitely saying something. But even so, simply telling those "is it just me" jokes doesn't sustain a comedy. Are we just one giant Vagina Monologue? Are people laughing because they identify with it and because the actress is bringing awareness to a real hardship, often overlooked in society? Or is it really funny? Her high, sometimes, forced energy made the heat drop a few degrees, trying too hard.
The show is engaging, and adorable, and it has a lot of heart. Liston's dancing, however, is what makes it hot and pulsating. Remember: It's the change—it's not the end (of life).