Lisa Kron

at Randolph Street Gallery

June 5 and 6

When I go to New York I generally find the performance work there tedious and self-important. But whenever Randolph Street Gallery brings in New York artists–Richard Elovich, Split Britches, and now Lisa Kron–I find the work exhilarating. Of course, the incredibly intelligent bunch at Randolph Street are responsible. They continue to provide some of the most intriguing programming in Chicago–it’s difficult to have a bad time there.

Lisa Kron appears as part of Randolph Street’s entertaining “In Through the Out Door” series, featuring lesbian and gay performances and multimedia art. Kron’s piece, All My Hopes and Dreams, is fundamentally an evening of stand-up comedy and humorous anecdotes (she even refers to herself disparagingly as the lesbian Garrison Keillor). But while most stand-up comedians present such slickly packaged material that they seem to be on autopilot, Kron’s approach is wonderfully clunky and pedestrian. Her set is a card table and stool. She can’t dance–though she gives it all she’s got–and she can sing only so long as the notes don’t go too high. She continually lets us know that her piece could fall apart at any minute.

Kron enters in an endlessly perky navy dress with white polka dots, flashing the crowd a “sincere” smile of the sort we might see on the face of a television anchorwoman or an overambitious third-grade teacher. She charges to the stool waiting for her center stage, smiles again, and tells us that she wants to share a commercial jingle with us. Looking like the picture of middle America, she begins to sing, “Lesbian Barbie, long, flowing hair under her arms, she’s lesbian Barbie . . . ”

Kron sings this little ditty as if she’s been singing commercial jingles all her life; she is slick, slick, slick. Immediately upon finishing her song she creates a moment of forced intimacy a la lounge singer, telling us that she is going to “share some very personal material” with us tonight. In order to enhance the feeling of intimacy she trades in her office pumps for a pair of comfy wing tips, giving us yet another commercial jingle: “Looks like a pump, feels like fucking shit.”

Kron spends the rest of the evening making fun of her privileged position as performer. She sings with utter conviction a song she wrote called “Ridiculous,” which crams the lyrics “Even though I know you’re an adult woman with your own feelings, somehow I just want to scooch you up in a ball and put you in my pocket” into about two measures of music. She fantasizes about appearing on the Tonight show, but her responses to Johnny’s questions are entirely insipid (“Jodie Foster has been very good to me”). She even resorts to going through a bag of things her mother bought her, showing us objects she thinks are funny.

The remarkable thing about Kron’s performance, however, is that even though she spends the evening with a sarcastic smile on her face, a certain candor and sincerity shine through. Clearly she’s in love with performing, sharing her humorous anecdotes with a lesbian and gay audience (though she does include one section specifically for straight women: an unbelievably bad poem from Cosmopolitan called “Business Love”). That candor makes her instantly likable. So when she simply shows us the photos in a calendar made by a trash-can company, an act anyone could do, it becomes truly hysterical.

Kron possesses the remarkable ability to make an audience comfortable in the most artificial kind of program: the one-person stand-up routine. The audience willingly follows her on her aimless journey because all the stops she makes are delightful.