EXPOSED! The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara
nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
July 15, 2009
Are you the type of person who holds heartfelt concern for the lives of celebrities? Do you wish your college offered an M.F.A. in "Paparazzi?" Is the knowledge of what George Clooney eats for breakfast one of your three "inalienable rights?" Then quickly, if there is any chance for your salvation left, get thee to Exposed: The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara. If you answered no to the questions above, but still love a good, fun-filled night at the theatre, then Exposed is for you too.
The plot is simple...sort of. As the story opens, the audience is transported 20 years into the future. Emails are sent telepathically, yoga teachers have been replaced by "yogabots," and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (yes, that one) is living a gleefully unfulfilled life as a hermit in an undisclosed L.A. apartment. Sharing the bachelorette pad is her adopted African sister, Zahara Jolie-Pitt (yes, that one), who while more in touch with the outside world, finds herself equally challenged by her tenuous self-identity (two successful running bits are Zahara's numerous "phases" and disguises). From their skin tone to the decorative objects that split the room in two, both women appear to have little in common outside of their very famous name. Shiloh spends her days shopping online while Zahara, now grown up in a world she was not born to be a part of, dedicates herself to a variety of political causes. This divide is further enhanced by the decorations that adorn each girl's side of the room; Shiloh’s being pretty in pink, while Zahara's has an assortment of large wigs and African-inspired tchotchkes (part of her “Angela Davis phase”).
For all their differences however, the two girls share a special bond, built upon the almost pre-natal celebrity status dropped on them by their famous parents. This fame, given rather than requested or earned, has created a burden, which has led to rather unseemly results in the lives of these two Hollywood kids (a nasty fight with Suri Cruise being one of the more disastrous). And it is the result of this burden that I think makes up the message of this production. I say "I think," because with all that happens in this piece, it can be hard to tell exactly where the focus is aimed. Exposed covers a lot of comic ground in its short time. There are puppets, Scientology videos, and German mad scientists to name a few, some of which tends to distract from the more central elements of the plot (why Christopher Walken was needed, I'll never know). However, the schizophrenic path of Exposed is not entirely inappropriate, for at times, the rapidly interchanging elements almost mirror what I imagine our brains look like as we interrupt our Tweeting with our Facebooking with our iPoding with our fill in the blank.
Whether or not Exposed intends to say more than what most of us already do say when some celebrity (or Alaskan governor) slaps their children on a magazine for the world to see, what is certain is that this is a very funny show, performed by some very talented actors. Kate Gersten, who also wrote Exposed, is a ditzy but earnest Shiloh, who is never so self-absorbed that we don't root for her. Kelly McCreary's Zahara also plays out nicely as the more grounded one, providing anchor for a cast of mostly outrageous characters. Bordering on stealing the show is Yang Miller, who as lovable friend/doofus Duggan, is able to find comedy in almost every sound and move he makes. The supporting cast is also strong, fitting nicely into all the many hats this show forces them to wear. Not to be outdone by the performers however, the low-fi design of the set and technical elements of Exposed are equally hilarious, creating an almost "Pee-Wee's Playhouse"-like backdrop for this comedy. For their ability to make it look "on purpose" rather than thrift-store cheap, director Dan Fogler and his production team should be commended.
Exposed may not cause the paparazzi to turn in their blood-stained cameras as penance, but it will make you laugh. And in times such as these, what more could you want?