Hi, How Can I Help You?
nytheatre.com review by Danny Bowes
February 24, 2011
Of the many questions asked on Election Night 2008, too few asked “What effect will this have on sex workers?” Writer/performer Scout Durwood addresses this political and intellectual lacuna in Hi, How Can I Help You?, now performing at the Kraine Theatre as part of the FRIGID New York Festival, by playing six different women working at a house of domination on that historic night. They bicker, talk politics, roller skate, hula-hoop, and sing.
Durwood is an energetic and engaging stage presence, delineating her characters mainly with accent and posture, quite distinctly without ever being cartoonish. Oddly, the effect that is achieved, as per Durwood's expressed intent to have the show's tone be that of children at play, is that of a precocious (and quite tall) young girl trying to make sense of the world, politics, and sexuality.
That sense is not easy to come by. Durwood's rapid-fire delivery and often free-associative script creates the same disorientation that often befalls children attempting to grasp the world of adults, and makes the very interesting point that adulthood's greater wisdom is illusory. The world, no matter what, is a confusing place with a barrage of unprocessed information being thrown at us all day, and in that sense, the form of the writing mirrors its bewildering content.
As the show is billed as a one-woman musical, it would be remiss to not mention Durwood's songs, which are simply but elegantly constructed with looped vocals, percussion (instruments include a tambourine and Durwood's own body), and, at one point, a kazoo. The looped, multi-tracked vocals are all executed by the performer herself on stage, in a very impressive technical achievement, allowing her to harmonize with herself, and quite well at that.
Hi, How Can I Help You? manages to juggle politics, sexuality, music, and good old-fashioned silliness in a way that will surely be enjoyable to an audience looking for a glimmer of light in this seemingly endless New York winter. Scout Durwood and director Lucile Baker Scott present a fine night of entertainment and some food for thought.