published Saturday, June 11, 2016
Photo: Michael Helms
Fort Worth — Jackie Kashian is a buccaneer of liberal wit who exudes smart nimble verbal swordplay, able to eviscerate Trump with remarkably few words. She’s a one-woman stupidity detector, exposing the frontal-cortex challenged for their illogical pronouncements that even just a smidgen of reading would allay. (See her Twitter feed for evidence.) She weaves references to animé, sci-fi, fantasy and various cosplay kingdoms at a level and skill no other comic can touch.
But that was not the Jackie Kashian on view at Amphibian Stage Productions on Friday. A new set and future CD is in development, one with an even tighter focus on her Midwest family and Irish Catholic heritage. The emphasis is on her irascible “aging horndog” father, Elliot and stepmother, Nancy, plus a passel of siblings, including a brother who hangs with the Koch brothers’ lawyer. Kashian continues at Amphibian through Saturday.
Elliot Kashian is a gold mine of material. When her fading manufacturing hometown south of Milwaukee went from six active Catholic churches to two, the place was “awash with lapsed Catholics.” But when one of those churches is proposed to become an Islam mosque and the hometown goes into freakout mode, dad is unimpressed: “In 40 years the place will be crawling in lapsed Muslims.”
Kashian spins bits on Elliot’s salesperson skills. He closed many a deal, including with women not his wife. When Kashian’s mother died in a car crash, leaving her and five siblings motherless, Elliot promptly married his paramour, who was surprised to learn he had a half-dozen kids. Yet she stayed. Now that’s closing a deal. Tales of Nancy’s parenting skills, dad’s multiple heart surgeries, and the familial aversion to grief entertain. If you enjoy Kathleen Madigan, you will love this new avenue of work. All done in Kashian’s rapid-fire delivery laced with sarcastic inflection and wry asides.
When Kashian turns the looking glass on herself, though, the humor really gets good. We all have ways of keeping reality at bay. For Kashian it’s books. High school reality is particularly egregious, causing Kashian to be dubbed “spooky reading girl.” Who reads while she runs laps in PE? Spooky reading girl, that’s who! (If this is you, get the t-shirt.) The vignette of Kashian’s sympathetic coach explaining the ins and outs of friendship and human interaction is priceless.
The lack of “pointy parts” on her body and the woes of “middle-aged lady time” aka peri-menopause, merge with dorkdom references like friends who think open carry should apply to their broadswords and a game-designer husband who see life through the lens of his occupation. (Tweet from jury duty: “This game is broken.” Tweet from bachelor party at a strip club: “What game is this?”) Her classic on the frozen food aisle of faux ethnic food being a tribute to American imperialism and “Manifeast Destiny” made sure longtime fans got their due.
READ Amy Martin’s story about Amphibian Stage Productions’ comedy series.
Original feature and video at: http://www.theaterjones.com/ntx/reviews/20160611160455/2016-06-11/Amphibian-Stage-Productions/Jackie-Kashian