Layers: PROLONGED EYE CONTACT: You Can’t Look Away… and, for Once, You Won’t Want To!
Let’s face it, one-person shows go one of two ways – Either you leave the show nauseated by a performer’s inflamed ego, or you walk away profoundly affected. KRISTEN STUDARD’s brave testimony of a modern woman’s navigation, through the unhinged world of dating, will take you on a journey. You’ll laugh. You’ll cringe. You’ll die a little inside, as you remember the time THAT happened to YOU. But, most of all, you’ll leave with a love for Kristen’s purposeful comedic flair and a better understanding of yourself.
This particular run of Prolonged Eye Contact was hosted by the Lyric Hyperion – an unassuming coffee house, with a theater in the back. Upon entry, guests were greeted by a wooden patio with stringed lights, umbrella tables and those 80’s wired lawn chairs that everyone’s Grandma owned. The lattes are legitimate, and the place brims with quirk and charm. Suffice to say, the Hyperion has all the features of Hipster Heaven. In the back of the shop, where you’d least expect it, a door opens to a theater that seats around 40. The pit-like stage, marked by a large rug and two chairs, makes this the perfect setting for real, raw stories.
And, Kristen Studard did not disappoint, on the raw reality. The show was a literal relationship, between Studard and the audience. The show hit the ground running, as it opened with a woman turning herself inside out…to please a man. Studard played everything from Administrative Assistant to a cheerleader to win over her audience. Even Studard’s coined term “ethical non-monogamy” was on the table (Shout out to L.A. dating!). The show touched on everything, from the “Birds and the Bees” to gossipy friends, and even the dreaded “keep things casual” heartbreak. In fact, Studard carried on with the show, during her own heartbreak.
“I got dumped and was like do I still have to do this,” Studard said. Unsure about performing a show about break ups, during a break up, she consulted her friends. Her friends were clear – “They were like Kristen, I know you’re really sad, but this is funny. So, you have to do it,” she recalled.
So, Studard continued down the path of creating a blatant, hilarious and heartwarming show. In fact, who needs a boyfriend? The status of Kristen’s show was “In a Relationship with the Audience.” The production was an hour-long showcase of Studard’s poised, “in your face” brand of comedy. Studard’s intelligent writing was upstaged only by her long-ranging character depth and 150% performance commitment. Her experience and comedic maturity shined further, as she confronted the toughest of tough issues.
Sexual harassment is no laughing matter, and sometimes the line between satire and “non-jokable” is almost non-existent. Studard, a comedy veteran, with over fifteen years under her belt, provided the certain finesse to pull it off. She presented smart comedy, with a serious undertone, shedding light on key components of the issue. Thanks to a disgraceful character named Louise, the audience gained a greater understanding of the victim’s experience, all at Louise’s expense.
“After the Weinstein stuff came out, I was just like what’s a funny way to talk about this? And, at first I was really worried that it was too on the nose – the satire was too overt,” Studard said. “But, people really like it because they like to see a woman in charge.”
Citing Louise as her favorite character to play, Studard was even “surprised” by the sketch’s growing popularity. “I did not think people would respond to it the way that they did, and they really have,” Studard reflected.
Studard’s wide array of characters reflected crucial break up moments – the denial, the backhanded compliments, the crying in the shower. The show ended with the ultimate break up – the audience leaving Kristen. But, as all relationships go, we learned some real life lessons. Our time with Studard taught us the origins of life, how to actually give a compliment, and that we just don’t deserve to look at cute animals. What we DO deserve is more of Kristen Studard’s brilliance and ungraceful grace. For now, we’ll carry on, knowing a part of us will always love her. And, we’ll practice our “surprised happy face”… in case we run into her with her new audience.