Review: ‘Love in the Time of Coloring’ at Trinadad Theater

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Review by Betsy Lizotte

Heather Frank’s solo cabaret of witty observations about the state of social interactions in a perplexing, high-tech world, combined with songs that she personally selected from current composers and the Great American Songbook, is both ironically funny and comforting. It is itself an amusing coloring book that distracts us from our distractions. Her insightful, amusing monologues, followed by songs that strangely apply to the monologues’ messages, perform two-fold magic: they make us laugh, producing mood-lifting, age-reversing endorphins; and they convey a voyeuristic contentment by exposing the absurdity of technicized interactions. Frank shows us there is yet hope for humans in a fast-paced, distracted world.

Heather Frank in Love in the Time of Coloring. Photo by Caroline Kenney.

Frank begins the show by telling the audience that she started a tech career at AOL in the ‘90s and feels slightly responsible for the need for adult coloring books. Each subsequent monologue is filled with witty, figurative, ironic twists of language that describe topics such as unfriending a pet on Facebook when you break up with the pet’s owner, using drones as the next level of dating platform, and exploring the use of social media to find inter-species romance.

At the end of each monologue, Frank sings a specially chosen song to accompany the monologue’s topic. This highlights Frank’s keen and quirky sense of humor in selecting the songs. It is eerie how the lyrics of these decades-old (“These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You),” 1936), sometimes centuries-old (“Come Again,” 1597) songs can apply to contemporary social topics. For instance, when commenting on the possibility of drone dating, Frank selects “Skylark,” a popular song from 1941 by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. Frank’s accompanying monologue first urges the audience to imagine aerial drones as the next level of dating application and then she croons the lyrics, “Skylark, have you anything to say to me, won’t you tell me where my love can be? Is there a meadow in the mist where someone’s waiting to be kissed…?”

Drawing that illustrates themes in the song, “It’s Bad For Me.” From the collection of Toniann Fernandez and Joey Frank.

Frank performs her monologues and vocal expressions on a sparsely decorated set that displays a perfect mélange of human performance and technological props in Capital Fringe’s Trinidad Theater. The sparseness serves two clever purposes. First, a practical one that allows the audience to focus attention on Frank’s clear, honeyed voice and Jeff Hamlin’s practiced piano accompaniments. Second, a stylistic one that creates a situational metaphor depicting the need for diminished distractions. DuJuan Pritchett, Trinidad Theater’s sound and light director, does an excellent job of using muted light in varying colors to further minimize distractions.

The canny combination of the human artistry (Frank’s aptly animated melodies and Hamlin’s skillful fingers finding all the right keys) along with the use of technology (the minimal lights and the single, still, projected image as a backdrop) contributes to the calming message of the production: we have the control over how much we want to let technology creep in.

The production is also soothing as it highlights the usefulness of technology. For instance, Frank often rehearsed with Director Steve Cupo, via Skype while they lived in separate cities.

Frank, Cupo, and Hamlin are all members of DC Cabaret Network. Although this current production only played for two nights at Capital Fringe, March 22 and 23, Frank hopes to present the show again in Washington, DC in the coming months and wishes to take it to other East Coast cities later this year and to the West Coast in 2019.

Running Time: 60-90 minutes depending on improvisation, with no intermission.

For future productions and more information about The DC Cabaret Network , go online.

For future productions and more information about the Capital Fringe, go online.