nytheatre.com review by Seth Duerr
Writer/performer John Kawie’s Brain Freeze, although very short
(only 55 minutes long) is quite interesting as a theatrical piece. The
story revolves around Kawie’s stroke, which attacked him at the height
of his stand-up comedic career, and how he has learned to deal with it.
It is an extremely positive and hopeful tale about a man changing his
perspective so that he is no longer a victim to his disabilities.
August 15, 2003
The story is executed in two parts: a private session, and "group therapy." In this latter segment, Kawie’s storytelling is at its height, as he impersonates the rather sordid and exhausting array of characters with whom he had to deal during his initial recovery period in the hospital, among them a soft-spoken woman named Laura who always has a chart to explain her emotions; Joanne, who seems harmless enough until her hand-puppet, Clarence, bad-mouths the group; and a group leader who is the combination of every disgustingly positive, superfluously optimistic idiot you could think of.
Jerry Diner’s direction encourages Kawie to be forthright and simple in his storytelling, which serves him well. However, Diner doesn’t always get Kawie to be as open and fresh as he can, which ultimately makes it hard for us to connect at all times. Brain Freeze’s end seems to be rather abrupt as well, especially since the group therapy session provides enough comic relief that we are able to handle a powerful ending, where I have no doubt Kawie could definitely drive the show home.
Looking at the whole picture, Kawie presents an honest, generous, surprising, and ultimately touching account of his own Mt. Everest, and it looks like he’s well on the way up to the summit.