Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: I Tried To Be Normal, It Didn’t Take

Caos on F

Remaining Shows:

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. (at the Goethe Institut–Gallery)
July 26 at 9:45 p.m.
July 27 at 6:00 p.m.

They Say: "Through song, stand up and conversation, Stephanie details how failing at normal was actually succeeding."

Val's Take: It's the obsession of every middle schooler: to be "normal." But the meaning of that word is ultimately quite arbitrary. Throughout her performance, Stephanie Svec questions the meaning of normal through a series of personal anecdotes, vignettes and animated narration. Early in the opening anecdote, she establishes that she feels like an outsider as the only single, childless 40-something in her dinner party—but she's also the only one who finds it crazy that these people are showing pictures of their children to their poor, unsuspecting server. Who is the normal one here?

Svec's path to her present-day performance may have been unconventional but the tale isn't entirely unfamiliar. She was a teenager with a passion for acting and a gift of comedic timing who was supported by parents who let her see the realities of her dreams at a young age but discouraged by an adult world (and an adult lover) that saw such dreams as childish and unsustainable. As Svec takes us through her struggles with fear and uncertainty (entering into a career offstage and an ill-advised marriage), she shines when relying on her humor to forward the story. Divorce has never seemed so hilarious. The flip side is that she's visibly shaken when speaking on the subject of family tragedy and she gets tongue-tied as she rattles off a list of her many achievements that seem like more of a resume than the parts of her life that define her. Ultimately, all of the emotions she exhibits are heightened by the fact that Caos on F is an intimate space and the spotlight and sound cues are her only support.

It was difficult not to watch the show and feel increasingly like I was staring into my own future. I have also taken to the stage with the intent of making people laugh while simultaneously putting increasingly more effort into five separate directions and pursuits. It was all a little unsettling to see the parallels between us and to realize that in fifteen years, I still won't have the answers. Svec leaves the stage with her life's loose ends still dangling. It's a somewhat unsatisfying ending even if it is the only honest cap on a story that's still in progress. Besides, who would be able to relate to a person who had actually figured out the secret to conquering all their fears? That's not normal.

See it if: You're of the opinion that life's greatest reward is the journey rather than the destination.

Skip it if: You really don't want to see someone else talk for 45 minutes about themselves, no matter how funny they can be.

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