My Nasty Bitch Wife
nytheatre.com review by Kyle Ancowitz
August 12, 2006
When I volunteered to review My Nasty Bitch Wife, I thought I knew what I was getting into. Caila Lipovsky's self-directed solo performance would feature a cadre of "awkward, disturbed, perverse characters." (I overheard someone in the ticket line call it "her Tracey Ullman thing.") There would also be a "dismemberment and recontextualization of ordinary life into a 4-dimensional Merry-Go-Round," which sounded stimulating, if uncomfortable. I figured it would be rough, raw, and unpredictable—quintessential Fringe. Sadly, I've never been so right.
The show begins with Lipovsky dressed as a stooped old woman, mumbling and carrying a chair. Now she bounces her ass to "I Like to Move It," now she eats a banana, and now she shoves her hands into her pantyhose, rummages around, pulls out a fistful of...blood? Followed by a blackout. This is the template for most of the evening's sketches, which are long on silly dances, gags, and grotesque humor, but short on depth, interest, or appeal. Lipovsky's alter-egos are some of the most horrifying women I've ever encountered onstage (plus one terrifying man). I didn't mind that there was no redemption for them, but I did mind that they were contrived to appall and then vanish without leaving a hint of a trace of a larger point behind them.
More than anything else, I think Lipovsky could use a director to help her rein in her excesses. There's nothing wrong with farting around onstage, but the art of it is to seem well-rehearsed. While they're at it, Lipovsky and her director would do well to refine her characterizations, develop her stories, and find ways to avoid forcing the audience to sit in the dark through long costume changes.
At the performance reviewed, Lipovsky's requests for audience participation were shyly rebuffed. I think this is evidence of a significant disconnect between the artist and her audience. Lipovsky is clearly talented, challenging, and fearless. She's also bent, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But with a little more style, finesse, preparation, restraint, and thoughtfulness, she could also be the star of a knockout solo show.