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How to Eat an Elephant
Warehouse Next Door
Wednesday, July 22 @ 10 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 @ 3 p.m.
They say: “Russell Crowe’s double-chin, Houdini Dog, and $12,279 teeth are just a few of the stories in this funny and touching (but not in an icky way) journey through the small moments in life that make up the big moments.”
Hilary’s take: “He’s been telling the same story for 30 years,” says first-time playwright and aspiring funny girl Cigdem (pronounced “Chee-dem”) Oktem of her engineer grandfather. “So, it’s sounding a little repetitve.”
His desire to retread Turkey’s entire economic development timeline with anyone who’ll stay awake aside, he’s pretty much the best grandpa ever. He not only inflated her (feigned) self-confidence to Fringe-a-rific proportions, but the Oktem family patriarch provided his granddaughter’s artistic debut with much of its best material: geriatric bloviations, a noble and inspiring career, and Cigdem’s anecdotal goldmines, aka nutso aunts and uncles.
In her Seinfeldian performance (it’s most definitely a show about nothing and everything), Oktem plucks her best stories from the family tree. The most fruitful of which: her brilliant aunt’s impending husband-cide; her lion-whisperer of a mother’s near death experience; and her Paul Newmanesque uncle’s firearm-stashing and apartment faÃ§ade-scaling antics.
Other stories, about her stealth Pomeranian (“Houdini Dog”) and her action flick fantasies (one of her favorite films is Wanted), fall flat. Whether trumped by nerves or outsize confidence in the singularity of her rather pedestrian middle class experiences, the pathos necessary to make the unremarkable personal material in How to Eat an Elephant work escaped Oktem’s cultivation. The intimate set — family pictures clinging to the wall and a bottle of Jack waiting next to a worn-in armchair — set the performer’s rigidity in stark relief. Much to my horror, she grasped and consulted her script with each transition; Oktem clearly hasn’t the self-confidence to tell her own story with gusto, or at least without her cheat-sheet.
Still. I don’t know if it was her glitz-tastic club shirt or the result of a play-dream (which occurs when brains clock out mid-performance due to boredom), but I think Oktem’s capable of more than she lets on. Perhaps by next Fringe she’ll have gathered enough constructive criticism and convincing self-confidence for something bigger and better than this Elephant.
See it if: Watching a first-time playwright/performer figure their shit out in real-time sounds like a Fringe-dream come true.
Skip it if: An hour of enduring stories about YouTube-stalking Russell Crowe and a recently layed-off Oktem’s entire(ly predictable) daytime T.V. schedule seems more like a Friday night pity-date than a night at the theater.