Naked & Crazy: True Stories from Meghan Gambling & Sascha
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
August 14, 2012
Naked and Crazy: True Stories from Meghan Gambling & Sascha Alexander is a double bill of solo shows, in which Meghan Gambling and Sascha Alexander share personal stories, ranging in topics from Meghan's struggles with adolescence, her sexuality and womanhood and Sascha's battle with an eating disorder and journey towards self-love, which leads her to start stripping. From a viewer's perspective, each show is unique and whole enough to stand on its own, so I'll begin with the first:
When Meghan Gambling enters the stage, she makes an immediate bold statement with a provocative dance. As an audience member, I was already hooked, and I hadn't even seen her face. As she proceeds to recall an intimate story from her youth, I began to question her ability to take the stage and hold my interest; after all, I have seen a fair share of solo shows, where I listened to someone rant about his or her life for an hour. However, as I got to know Meghan, I became more and more fond of her, and I realized she is a gifted writer, musician and comedian. What I enjoyed most about Meghan's piece is her ability to surprise the audience with sudden humor, ingenuity, and charm. Moments that come to mind include a song she sings about losing her virginity; the irony of the song and Meghan's lovely voice captured my interest, as soon as I realized she wasn't asking for pity. The song is comparable to one of Phoebe's songs in Friends ("Smelly Cat" comes to mind). I especially enjoyed Meghan's demonstration of a solo dance routine she performed in high school after her partner dropped out; in addition to her decent skill as a dancer, she exhibits priceless expressions of teen angst and a desperation to prove herself. Meghan's sense of ease and humor with which she shares these intimate and sometimes troubling stories endows her with finesse, a sort of je ne sais quoi that makes you want to hear more. My only qualms with the piece are an overuse of oversized fluorescent note cards and a section where Meghan discusses the trepidation she had about doing this show. For some reason, this took me out of the piece by reminding me that I was in a theater, watching a show that was deliberately written for performance; it somehow killed the magic of experiencing the richness of Meghan's stories. Likewise, there is a section where Meghan reads excerpts from reviews of past shows of hers; while I thought some of this bit was funny, it made me wonder whether this seeming effort to achieve audience approval is necessary, as Meghan already won us over the second she picked up her guitar.
Sascha Alexander's solo piece is the more entertaining of the two shows, as Sascha is a natural stage performer. Her piece feels more cohesive, centering on her struggle to make peace with her body. Sascha, too, is a comedian, though she is less subtle than Megan; her blunt sense of humor could be compared to Amy Poehler or Sarah Silverman. Los Angeles, where Sascha resides, dominates the backdrop of this piece, as Sascha illuminates the standards put upon women to be thin and beautiful in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Sascha brings to life her therapist, who sounds like a Jewish New Yorker from the Upper West Side and is the guiding force in Sascha's battle to overcome an eating disorder. Other notable characters include Sascha's insanely attractive instructor at S-factor, where she signs up for impromptu strip lessons. My favorite moments include a conversation Sascha has with her stomach, who happens to be Guatemalan and enjoys tamales, as well as Sascha's repeated and embarrassing attempts to make it up and down the stripper pole. Sascha's struggles with self-acceptance and body-image are familiar, and, sadly, nothing out of the ordinary for many women; nevertheless, it is Sascha's journey towards salvation through strip classes that I found most moving and inspiring. The finale of the piece is especially gratifying; I loved seeing Sascha finally let go, embrace her body, and fully express herself, both emotionally and physically. I wouldn't be surprised if other women in the house had the same thought I did when it was all over: where can I sign up?!