nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
February 27, 2009
The "one-man show" is a theatrical entity unto itself. When a theatre artist takes said entity on, either as a writer or a performer, with it comes some built-in hurtles that must be jumped before the show can be successful. One such trap comes when the writer chooses to perform the piece themselves. Without realizing it, the artist can become self-indulgent, stagnant, and low energy. It is extremely cathartic for an artist to stand on stage and talk about loss, regrets, unsatisfying sexual experiences, and so on. Moments over time that are very important to the individual can come off as unimportant to an audience, unless the hurtle is avoided. I am sorry to say that creator/performer Gail Roberts fell directly into this trap with her production of Camouflage.
We join the very likable and saucy Roberts when she comes on stage and informs us she is going to give us a lesson in "camouflage" as she applies the most prominent of disguises, everyday makeup. Her "pre-moisturized" face is very appealing under the light and the correlation between blending in and covering up is insightful, it just takes up the majority of her performance. The pacing is slow, the energy low, and it is very clear that it is an actress on stage, not a real human baring it all. It is almost as if she is doing an impersonation of herself. Even the emotional moments seem painted on.
Based on the words she has written, it is clear that Roberts is a smart and witty lady with a wise outlook on life; the timing of the performance is simply off. Her characterizations of the people who have been in her life are very similar to one another—and I always think it's a mistake to play children as clueless and "childish."
The piece lacks a relevant and prominent journey and the very title of the show seemed to be forgotten by the end. The idea of Camouflage was lost. Perhaps with stronger direction from Mark Schoenberg the urgency of Roberts's message could have been captured. Right now the beats are unclear and the relationships with the other characters in the play are poorly defined and vague. In the end, there is a lovely message, "live your life," that, if polished and reworked could definitely have something to offer. As it stands Camouflage left me unsatisfied.