Masterz in Motion
nytheatre.com review by Lois Spangler
August 19, 2007
Self-help is a genre that is ripe for mocking, and Masterz in Motion comes out swinging from the start. Presented as a self-improvement seminar hosted by Masterz An., proponent of Simplerfection; Palmer Graves, proponent of non-self and personal loathing; and Morgayne Magdalena WhiteBear, spiritual master, massage therapist, and freelance hair stylist, the seminar casts the audience as miserable seekers of solace, hope, and happiness, selling us their contemporary snake oil for spiritual ills.
Each Master is damaged in some way. An. is frighteningly obsessive, and solves her problems—and yours!—by simplifying everything out of life. Palmer Graves preaches self-hate—because self-hate makes hating others easier, which means the conscience isn't bothered when you take what you want from others. And Morgayne Magdalena learned her wisdom from the elementals, angels, and spirit guides.
What follows is very, very much like a Tony Robbins seminar—alarmingly so. However, the satire is clear, and sometimes heavy-handed. It's the easy laugh they often go for, which is disappointing; because it's clear they're all smart and agile performers. Nevertheless, there are moments when they aim high, and their best work emerges when they directly engage the audience.
Speaking of audience participation—treating the audience as seekers of solace at a self-help seminar worried the heck out of me. Would we be forced to go through visualizations? (Yes.) Would we be forced to reveal incredibly uncomfortable things about ourselves? (No.) And in that respect, Masterz in Motion strikes a good balance of audience involvement without inducing too much embarrassment, though Steve O'Connell as Palmer Graves can be...quite aggressive.
While the performance is fun, the multimedia aspect is pretty much the kind of Power Point slide show you might expect at a corporate presentation, with the exception of a handful of testimonial interviews with those hardy souls who have benefited from the Masterz's intervention—most of which are quite funny.
I did find myself wishing that the performers would go past the easy jokes—mocking An.'s obsessiveness, for instance—more often than they did. Again, self-help is ripe for satire, but because it is so ubiquitous, you have to do something really different with the jokes and humor aimed at it to stand out. Masterz in Motion is a lot of fun, and often very smart, but I felt a sense of trepidation in really reaching for the tough humor, a need to stay just a little safe. With just a little more abandon, Masterz in Motion is set to become a biting satire and indictment of a morally bankrupt industry.