Local Arts Reviews


Blue Theater, through Sept. 4

Running time 1hr, 30 min

Spin can be described as a one-woman cabaret with one woman who performs several one-woman exposés. The diva enters wearing a rainbow of boas draped around her shoulders, a sparkling blue formal dress, and a very tall feather sticking straight up to the heavens. Catherine Berry sings about being overdressed with nobody having warned her about the dress code. Her round blue eyes twinkle, her brow wrinkles in confusion. Instantly, her presence on stage is more than likeable; it is deeply engaging. She is fascinating to watch, and it's sort of a mystery. I suppose it is in her absolute surrender to herself and the audience. She seems unafraid. This fearlessness is perhaps what makes Berry so vibrant and sincere.

A mix of talented playwrights indulged Berry's request to write short character moments inspired by songs. Each song presents us with a new character. Each character is explored further through monologue. In Lydia, by Katherine Catmull, the Bard recites sonnets to his love. Although Lydia is impressed, her deeper yearning rests in the Lerner and Loewe song "Show Me," as in "Show me you love me without words. Use your body, baby." Berry's grasp of comedic facial and physical expression is superb. In addition, the playwrights tend to have wicked humor. In Patricia Decker's Carmen, revenge is the desire, using the Amy Rigby song "Keep It to Yourself." Berry takes the microphone and presents herself as the lonely singer in a smoky bar, sweetly suggesting how to murder and betray her ex-lover. John Walch's Gretchen is more psychoanalytic, using a bread box to represent the mind. Gretchen is unwilling to trust a compliment, such as "Too Marvelous for Words," by Johnny Mercer. She hammers at the box to stop the negative playback of words burned into her self-perception. This forceful persistence is what causes her to have a concussion. An even darker yet subtler story is told in Cyndi Williams' Annette. Berry sings "Sons of" by Jacques Brel while hanging children's clothes up to dry. She uses lifeless pants as puppets, dancing them across the stage, suggesting the body that could have been wearing them is no longer alive. This is a touching moment orbiting around loss and grief.

The bond in this show is Adele, an experienced stage actress who now works as a janitor at the theatre. She pours bleach into a spray bottle, ominously describing the insect and bacteria genocide about to occur. Her body is hunched over as if having swept too many hard-to-reach spots, her voice wavers indicating age and use, but Adele's character is formidable. She has the secrets we all want to hear. It doesn't matter if they are lies.

If we live in a time of schizophrenia, fragmented souls, and lost dreams, Spin assures us that this is all normal. Characters are everyday, everywhere. Playwrights understand this, and Catherine Berry emulates this. Theatre and its narcissistic nature are forgivable when characters and performers are not only sympathetic but very entertaining.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Heather Barfield Cole
Arts Review
Double Exposure
In Double Exposure, writer/performers Wayne Alan Brenner and David Jewell offer old and new material they've created, and their knack for capturing nuance in the mundane entertains

Nov. 17, 2006

Arts Review
In Randy Wyatt's '9x9x9,' Coda Theater Project offers a kooky thought piece on life / death and the power of God, but a lack of clarity in presentation undercuts some of the fun

May 5, 2006


Spin, Catherine Berry, Katherine Catmull, Lerner and Loewe, Show Me, Patricia Decker, Amy Rigby, Keep it to Yourself, John Walch, Too Marvelous for Words, Johnny Mercer, Cyndi Williams, Sons of, Jacques Brel

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle