The Streaming Experience: Peter Gray’s The Karens
“Whats up, bitches?” Not a whole lot, as the theatrical Zoom streamed gathering of The Karens gets called to order. I would say that it’s quite the energetic opening, filling me with optimism and high hopes, as the three ladies come together for a higher purpose, but is it really? Reforming an old high school bond, these Karens have regrouped for the sole purpose of re-branding the newly, much maligned hashtag by the name of Karen. The signature name, they tell us, used to represent “prestige, style, and popularity“, back in the day, their day, but now, as of late, it has been getting quite the bad reputation around town, as we all know, and these ladies are not too happy about it. But what can these three do to change that? Can they unite and change the world? Or will that Perrier lose its fizz soon after its been opened?
“How are we going to judge you, if we can’t understand you?” This is the wild and wonderful formulation at the core of Peter Gray’s The Karens, directed with a strong intention of spark by Michael Alvarez (Hook and Eye’s Pleasure Men). It starts out with a fizzy pop, giving the idea a hopeful game with a highly stylized jab and jolt, but unfortunately, the production, streaming online from August 13th to the 27th, falls flat, failing to captivate and get all the likes, even with a somewhat witty and biting script. The solid characterizations, constructed by the clever cast made up of Morgan Danielle Day (“The Pros of Cons“), Felicia Santiago (“Ill Feelings“), and LaurenSage Browning (CalArts’ The Seagull), work their hardest to make the trio of Karens at the center appealing, but pretty quickly, somewhere within the first quarter of the overly long streaming, the ball stops bouncing and the “real truth” delivered isn’t all that climatic, engaging, or intoxicating.
The playwright Peter Gray (Love, Medea), with a solid sound design by John Millerd (Paper Mill’s Unmasked), tries his damnedest to find an edgy current flow to stream out energy and tension, but even with his talent for clever and snappy interactions, the mark is sorely missed. It sometimes sings a short tune that fun, but quickly stalls and grinds to almost zero. Dragging itself forward, The Karens tries hard, over and over again, to construct some cultural awareness through YouTube videos and promotions in order to address the horrific different sort of Karen that has gone viral. That Karen is seen by the masses as neurotic and entitled, demanding more than their fair share, and in order to save the good Karen name, these three former mean girls attempt, not so wisely, to take those privileged white women to task.
“I see you, not perfectly, but I see you.” Presented by The Muse Collective (click here for tickets and information), this biting new comedy, suffers from a good idea being elongated beyond recognition. It’s an over two hour Zoom meeting that could have been presented in half the time, and one that you are glad you didn’t turn your camera on, as they would get to see how you turning your attention elsewhere. It’s a damn category 5 shame, as the performances are energetic, focused, and lively. The production tries its best to tackle white privilege with some style and flair, but the shortcomings and the long form writing gets in their own way, making it difficult for us all to stay fully tuned in, even with the occasional good, smart line or a finely made point. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” they say, as they call on each other and all of us to “change the narrative“. That is, I’m sorry to say, something I can fully relate to.