AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE is Alexandra Tatarsky’s one-woman show about the madness and horror of contemporary political discourse. She presents a sharp-eyed and intentionally perfidious deconstruction of language into its component morphemes, and reason into a stream-of-consciousness torrent of illogical relations.
The plywood stage is tawdry with gold streamers, fake flowers, and a ketchup bottle. Tatarsky enters through a side door dressed in an American flag T-shirt with red, white, and blue tassels and similar patriot plastic stuffed into her Trumpian blonde wig. She is Kellyanne Conway on a fistful of pharmaceuticals. She begins her confession, giving us not a logical narrative but something more like a dance through political factoids and scatalogical self-parodies. This is TV news puking its guts up. “USA,” she cries; then, with a knowing gaze into our eyes: “us and you.”“Wall,” she says, then she gives us that look again. “. . . law . . . wall, law: wow!”
Tatarsky’s daring, inventive, rapid-fire wordplay is unlike anything you’ll see on a Philly stage. Her brilliant monologue has the intensity of a twenty-five minute drum solo; it is funny, but sometimes I laughed even when it wasn’t funny. She navigates twists and turns of meaning which feel simultaneously impossible and inevitable, like an oncoming train; she is at turns playful, shocking, and uncomfortable. She combines intensity, direct eye contact, fast-paced logic jumps, and the basic fact of our proximity—in the front row, I was at most a couple of feet away from her for most of the performance—to produce an intense and at times grotesque experience.
Her Conway can overfeed herself on her own fragmented discourse, but only to the point that it gets a reception. Underneath this deft trickster Harlequin is a barely recognized sad clown Pierrot, desperate for our understanding and affection, who needs to spit these ideas out, who needs to keep producing speech and ideas in order to survive.
[Berks Warehouse, 1801 N. Howard Street] September 16-23, 2017, http://fringearts.com/event/americana-psychobabble/.