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