What's My Problem? | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

What's My Problem? 

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What's My Problem? at Cafe Voltaire. Her face is screwed up in a grimace of pained concentration. Her voice is an exhalation somewhere between a sigh and a migraine. She's Dr. Myra Kopin, and she's here to help you. The topic for this evening's group-therapy session is "Loving Food, Loving Yourself," and she encourages us to share not traumatic but pleasant memories of dining. These she interprets with smothering sympathy--until one such testimonial triggers something in her own psyche, and her role-playing takes on a decidedly dominatrixlike tone.

Interactive theater is nothing new, but for a solitary player to juggle whatever ball her audience may throw her, as Claire Kaplan (aka Dr. Kopin) does, compounds the genre's risks. On the night I attended, the audience included several other improv-comedy veterans, any one of whom could easily have stolen the show out from under a performer less in control, but Kaplan kept a firm rein on the audience even as she maintained her outrageously other-directed persona. Her drill-sergeant grocery-cashier instructor is more a standard funny-lady turn than the good doctor, but Kaplan never becomes mean-spirited or vulgar. (Double entendres are left to our own dirty minds.)

Improvisational theater is always a one-day-at-a-time proposition, but an artist with a sure eye for satire can find humor anywhere, and Kaplan appears to be such an artist. No problem there.

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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