Oblivious to Everyone
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
August 15, 2006
Modern pop culture and the media get playfully skewered in Oblivious to Everyone, a funny new solo show written and performed by Jessica Lynn Johnson. The show doesn't contribute anything new to the anti-television argument (i.e., the programming generally stinks, and may actually be harmful to one's mental health), but it does feature a bravura performance by Johnson that ranks as the best surprise of this year's Fringe Festival.
Playing Carrie, a California blonde with the requisite breast implants and visible designer labels on everything she wears, Johnson rips through a colorful array of characters plucked from the reality shows and daytime TV talk shows that the protagonist is addicted to. Carrie is talking to a therapist, at first, about the reasons why she shouldn't be in his office—primarily because she doesn't need any help. But, she does. Unbeknownst to her, Carrie has been so poisoned by mainstream television that she's developed multiple personalities—including a ditzy porn actress, a drunken frat guy, and a trailer trash mom—that she inadvertently slips into mid-sentence. When she says at one point, "I am who the media made me," she's not kidding!
Oblivious to Everyone paints a vivid picture of a woman who, by her admission, was raised by television while her single dad was out hunting for a new trophy wife. Her social mores dictate that walking around Los Angeles with one's roots showing is a criminal act and that only "hot women" get to be sexual in America. When we first meet Carrie, her observations are humorously shallow—like, "Whenever I'm single, I definitely get a job."—but, as she unwittingly opens up during her hour-long session, one can't help but feel a little sorry for someone who sincerely believes that "you have to wear a name before people know your name."
Carrie's many personalities also have valid, if somewhat obvious, points to make as well (like when the porn star lucidly declares, "If a guy jerking off to your picture isn't power, I don't know what is."). Johnson's transformation into each of the show's nearly ten characters is downright impressive, switching personalities as fast as one can flip channels. She never misses a beat, performing one seamless metamorphosis after another with jaw-dropping facility. Director Chris Sorensen keeps the show's focus solely on Johnson, facing her front and center to address the audience as if they are her therapist, and allows the play's message to emerge on its own.
"Everyone knows women aren't funny, right?" Carrie rhetorically asks at one point. Oblivious to Everyone proves her to be very wrong. The talented Johnson has crafted a flattering vehicle for herself, as both an actor and a writer, that is definitely worth checking out.