Earth to Karen, a zippy, four-actor musical comedy, is an exemplar of the old theatre adage attributed to Alexandre Dumas that all a play needs is “four boards and a passion.” In Broadwater’s Black Box, four terrific musical comedians seize the space with nothing but themselves, two chairs, and a table, backed by three musicians upstage.
Karen Spitz (Dagney Kerr), a former astronaut, veered off the rails when her unrequited passion for a fellow astronaut caused her to speed non-stop across country from Texas to Florida to kidnap the object of her affection, taking care of her bodily needs by wearing an astronaut diaper. The plot failed, the notoriety cost her career as an astronaut and tagged her forever as “The Diaper Lady.” Now she crashes with her resentful, languid, divorcée sister, Alice (Rebecca Larsen), who demands she get a job. Karen applies at a Subway restaurant run by an enthusiastic manager, Jen (Lauren Van Kurin), where she encounters a prospective co-worker, sweet-natured Chet (Matthew Bohrer). Although the focus of the action is on Karen, each player gets plenty of stage time. Ms. Van Kurin is the protean actor playing three characters and achieving some astonishing quick changes.
The details of the action are for an audience to discover. Suffice it say that a play needs conflict and complication, and Earth to Karen has it in hilarious spades, rendered by a cast at the top of their game as singing, dancing comedians. From the first moment, the cast gives the performance to the audience. No fourth wall, no coyness here. They are out to entertain and they give it their all.
Director Guy Picot keeps the pace cracking on full steam for the one-hour length of the performance, yet finds room for genuine emotion. The ten songs by Mr. Bernstein—passionate, delightful, and funny—expand the action. They are touchingly emotional and enhance the story. The choreography by Sarah M. Kruger, adhering to the rule of comedy, is inventive and tailored to the abilities of the cast. And there are some blisteringly fast costume changes, which are in themselves wonderfully outrageous. The band, unobtrusively hugging the upstage wall, consists of Eric Radoux on bass, Gordon Wimpress on guitar, and Mr. Bernstein on drums. The graphic design is by Jim Pierce.
Earth to Karen is produced by Zachary Berstein and David Mayes.