Saving Tania's Privates
nytheatre.com review by Danny Bowes
February 23, 2011
What do you do when you lose both breasts to cancer by the age of 31? Writer-performer Tania Katan's answer seems to be: have a laugh, because seriously, what's the alternative?
Katan's focus and energy as a performer, and her sharp sense of the absurd as a writer, help keep what could be harrowing material in different hands consistently funny. There isn't a shred of self-pity in her tale, which is to the show's great benefit. We come away from the theater instead admiring Katan's strength and bravery, and not in the overused sense of an actor being “so brave” for playing a character without makeup or gaining weight or something dumb like that. Genuine strength, and genuine bravery.
The best thing about Saving Tania's Privates is that that's not even the point of the thing. Katan's story, from her romantic misadventures to her dysfunctional family to her flamboyant best friend who never wants to hear about anything that isn't getting drunk and having sex, make her an incredibly relatable protagonist, even to audience members who didn't grow up lesbian in Arizona. Katan's precision as both writer and actor are universals, and the cocked eyebrow she turns on her own life story makes this show a particular delight.
Revealing too many details about the story Katan tells would spoil the surprise (including the transcendent, cathartic ending), but suffice to say, not only does she have a fascinating story to tell, she'd be able to tell a mundane story well. As a performer, Katan has the audience squarely in the palm of her hand for the entire show, even pulling off that hypnotist's trick of making each audience member feel as though she's speaking directly to them; this, even though only one brief aside is directed to the audience for the entire hour running time. She's magnetic, providing a how-to on solo performance.
Katan's performance is abetted nicely by AJ Epstein's lights, which complement the mood of the story nicely, and Rob Witmer's equally collaborative sound design does the same, providing Katan with something to play off of. The production, considering that it consists of but a handful of light and sound cues and a “sassy Jewish lesbian with no boobs” (Katan's own self-description), is a very polished, engaging thing indeed. Saving Tania's Privates is definitely worth seeing, an enjoyable and surprisingly exhilarating night at the theater.