Six Women With Brain Death
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Feb. 9, 2001
Six Women With Brain Death: Reluctant, Synchronized Cheerleaders
Dougherty Arts Center,
through February 11
Running Time: 2 hrs
The checkout aisle tabloids invade the stage in the cult favorite Six Women With Brain Death. A series of sketches and musical numbers take on trash culture, all the larger abominations of the lowbrow zeitgeist: BIGFOOT STOLE MY WIFE. ELVIS RETURNED BY ALIENS. FACE OF JESUS SEEN IN WAFFLE IRON. You've seen this stuff before: Lampooned in MAD magazine, sketched on Saturday Night Live, and in this show, the quality of the material is varied, and of varied impact. The unscored sketches are often amusing -- reminiscent of some of the less-inspired bits of the old Carol Burnett Show. Some of the pieces here (the recurring Divas bit, especially) are good enough in concept and execution that you want to own a video of just them, so you can replay them for visitors at home. But most of the sketches fall flat, revealing no new method of beating the already well-bruised dead horse of tabloid culture. Yes, it's funny that Barbie dolls have no genitalia; yes, the stereotypical housewife may get too emotionally involved in some lame soap opera; yes, there are kooky people who believe they've been abducted and probed by aliens, and one can write irony-laden lyrics about that. But, well, yawn.
For Buzz Productions' version, director Theresa Leckbee shapes the material admirably under the circumstances. Kelly Goran on piano and George Garza on drums put some decent wheels to the lyrical vehicles driving much of the action, and those vehicles are sprightly and poppy, with clever rhymes and neat little hooks. The choreography by Geo Haynes is effective in its cabaret-revue style and fits the presentation: The dancers, these six women with brain death, ostensibly, come across as reluctant, synchronized cheerleaders to the pageant of garbage culture they're mocking.
The women in this show give it the old college try. They're not bad actors, none of them, and their voices are decent enough, and sometimes they get into their performances so thoroughly that they transcend all but the best of what they're working with. Katie Brock -- with her high-register vocals and fervent, unfettered mugging -- shines. But only Jo Beth Henderson really delivers the goods. She disappears into each caricature the way a multiple personality disappears into quicksand. And she can sing. She's a cage of barely restrained lightning, a dynamo on two legs.
If the whole show were almost as good as its star performer, it might be a real success; as it is, it's worth going just to see her in it. I'm thinking of starting a fan club, in fact. No, I'm serious.