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Goethe Institut- Main Stage
Thursday, July 18, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 21, 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 24, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, 1:45 p.m.
They Say: “Romance and relationships in the age of iPhones and Google. WTF? tryst by text, bare our souls on chat. With so many ways to (mis)communicate, to search for our soulmate, will our love lives ever make sense?”
Ever have that feeling everyone is in on a joke but you? For instance, somebody mentions that they enjoy avocados, a rather ordinary statement with seemingly no comic undertones, but suddenly you’re surrounded by laughter. Goethe Insitut’s main stage was clearly a friendly house for opening night of iLust for G-Love: An Auto-Ethnography as evidenced by the number of people who jumped to their feet and brought flowers for their loved ones after the show.
Perhaps if you know Emily Crockett, her various characters’ obsessions with avocados will strike you as funny, but I was just confused. I gleaned from the program that Phillip Chang is an accomplished dancer, so his spontaneous routine to “Suit and Tie” thrown into the final scene surely holds a special charm for those who know him, but in the context of trying to wrap up a theatrical performance it contributed little.
When the jokes weren’t inside, they were all too often of the lazy, greeting-card variety. If you would find it funny to see an image of a 1950’s father figure scratching his head trying to figure out what it means to “delete cookies” while envisioning an empty plate with crumbs, then iLust has plenty to offer you. If not, it’s going to be a long evening.
Throughout the show, the cast often seemed as disinterested in their characters’ various cliché-ridden circumstances as I was. Whether parroting the cadence and humor of Seinfeld in a segment about not being the “haha” girl, or borrowing whole-cloth from Wedding Crashers in conversations about “clingers,” the punchlines revealed themselves ages before they were ready to land. Scenes are built around old stereotypes and tropes such as “men and women are different” or “long-distance relationships are hard” and make just the faintest of attempts to search for any deeper meaning. Only the exuberantChang and the cruelly underutilized Karen Lawrence seemed to approach the material with any sort of enthusiasm.
Lawrence doesn’t appear until the fourth of the evening’s six stories, playing Eliza Little in a strange scene in which all of the characters’ names are riffs off of My Fair Lady for some reason and a woman inexplicably makes guacamole on stage. After nearly thirty minutes of languid pacing, dropped lines and half-hearted joke delivery, Lawrence’s presence lands as a welcome respite. She oozes confidence, wringing a few laughs out of the otherwise tired jokes she is given. Her second starring appearance is in a scene called “Silence,” and while the conceit is the most fascinating and well-executed of the evening, it felt like a mean trick to play on the audience to rob the show’s best performer of her finest tool.
The evening was not completely without laughs for those of us not intimately connected with the performers. Unfortunately, most of these moments came in the interludes between vignettes rather than in the scenes themselves. A short animation showing how men respond to women in online forums called “Pre-datr” was discomfortingly hilarious.
The heartiest been-there-done-that guffaws of the night were for the clever zingers that made up Crockett’s musical interlude, “Damn You, Autocorrect.” No writing credits for the song are listed in the program, so I’m not sure where recognition is due, but a quick Google search shows that the company is not alone in performing a similar gag, even if they wrote it themselves. Still, it was the best example all night of the show’s goal of skewering and attempting to make sense of intimate communication in an online age.
See it if: You find comic gold in the series Two and a Half Men.
Skip it if: Internet abbrevs don’t make you LOL.