Is it Acting if it’s just Psychoanalyzing your Life?

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On a scorching hot Sunday afternoon in Manhattan, theater goers took refuge in the air-conditioned Lion Theater to see a one-woman play. An off-Broadway production, Recreating Keiter is an attempt at approaching several themes, all carried out through one character, one set and long monologues.

The show was written and performed by Cindy Keiter, portraying herself in the play. The stage is set to look like her father’s old radio broadcasting booth with its sustainably-sourced wooden desk accompanied by a red rolling chair and a radio microphone. Keiter enters the stage sporting a red blazer, white button up, slacks with a white stripe down the side, and white tennis shoes. The mismatched, ill-fitting costume choice and the playbill-described dream vision set (which is always a no when it comes to quality theater) are just the first mistakes made in this play.

The play was structured by intertwining baseball radio announcing with the story of Keiter’s life. However, most theater patrons are not baseball aficionados. There are plenty of baseball fans and many theater lovers, but a far smaller combination of both. The sparse audience, which did not even fill half of the theater’s 88 seats, was no surprise.

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My two-decades in age were the youngest in the crowd and I can’t blame my fellow young adults for not attending. The emphasis on the baseball radio broadcasting was something only those of my grandfather’s generation can appreciate. With today’s technology, there is no need to listen to someone explain what is occurring at a sporting event when anyone can see it for themselves at the touch of a button. Along with the antiquated baseball coverage, the attempts at humor were behind the times, with references that were probably older than I am.

While the show’s jokes fell flat, the life story Keiter shared was heartfelt and engaging. Keiter is a strong storyteller, using her energy thoughtfully to bring her story to life with just her voice and her body. However, she was playing herself and sharing her own life, so is that really acting?

The play seems more like a therapy session (which I would know since I’ve been in many) of her past relationships and personal struggles. She certainly fulfills the self-centered actress stereotype given she thinks others would pay money to hear her life story on stage. While it probably feels good to Keiter to make a one-woman show about herself, the play was egotistical with limited narrative arch. Life doesn’t always have a narrative arch of course, but many issues were mentioned that were not fully developed.

For instance, Keiter talks about having plastic surgery twice as a young adult, but never references her body image following these events, leaving the viewer to conclude plastic surgery fixed her body issues as the play moves on to focus on relationship problems. Then the play ends [spoiler alert] with her identifying as gay, when earlier she told the audience she was straight and sometimes bisexual with only one brief interaction showing her interest in women. The play could have engaged with her process of realizing her sexuality as her marriage ended, instead of focusing on hating her dead ex-husband.

Not even the smart use of sounds and screen projection could save this production from itself. If you can even call what Keiter did on stage acting, it certainly was not well done. She stumbled over her lines, fumbled through words, and coughed throughout the performance. Not only was this distracting, but it was unprofessional for any actor, much less one who should know her own script given it’s her life story.

Clearly the play was not meant to be an engaging narrative so much as a way for Keiter to have a therapy session about all the horrible things and people in her life. Usually the client pays for her own therapy, but instead Keiter charges you $42.25 to see her session.

Photos © Darcey Pittman 2018

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