Cheerful Insanity: Chao and Katzberg In Repertory
Kim Katzberg's Penetrating The Space proves to be a brilliant exploration of metatheatricality, while Tom X. Chao's Callous Cad is simply tiresome.
Penetrating the Space concerns Jinny Jikkyl (played by Katzberg), an actress who splits her time between rehearsing for an autobiographical solo piece that examines her incest-riddled childhood and composing a demo tape in hopes of booking a Gas-X commercial. Along the way, we are introduced to suicide prevention hotline operator/burnout Terry, the manically enthusiastic wolf girl, and a lesbian lighting technician with the hots for Jinny, all of whom are also expertly played by the writer.
Katzberg's humor comes from a decidedly visceral place: Jinny Jikkly expresses her interest in infusing the theater space with the authentic smell of her own vagina. All the while, Jinny recites the refrain, "I have to get industry to this show," expressing her misguided hope that, through her raw and "in-your-face" performance, she will land an agent. Katzberg is acutely aware of the strange contradictions in the theater world and she milks them to great effect, adding to an already hilarious physical performance.
Ultimately, Penetrating the Space also thrives on a series false epiphanies: Wolf girl decides to become a pro-dominatrix because she has "fat thighs" and Jinny decides to become a lesbian ("for now") as a way to cope with her discomfort with men.
Various friends with ironic vintage facial hair appear via projection to offer their input, but to no avail. We never do discover the true source of Chao's ennui, although one suspects it might derive from a general dislike of everything from standup comedians to the band Radiohead.
Of course, Chao is insistent that we know he is in on the joke with us. One of his earliest lines is, "Even though the relationship with the girl I just met isn't that great, I'm going to write a play about it." He also informs us that, "Having sex has zapped my creativity!" Being aware of this fact doesn't make his play any less tiresome however.