2018 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Burn Out Blessings’

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Imagine a classroom decorated for a birthday party. On the table is a cake, party hats, paper napkins, and plates; a banner is tacked on the wall. Ambling back and forth in this classroom is Al Baker, microphone in hand, telling her story.

Only the story isn’t about a birthday. And Baker doesn’t have much to say about the classroom, other than that she doesn’t like lesson plans or follow-the-dots teaching. Baker’s monologue chronicles the first few years of her life as a teacher. Fed up with the lack of fulfillment in the classroom—and turned off by all the talk of marriage and dogs that she hears in the teachers’ lounge—she seeks out other forms of satisfaction. Call it a year of long weekends.

These adventures—which she recounts with relish—sound a lot like promotions for “flavor of the day” ice cream cones. Indeed, one of her lovers—I’ve forgotten which, though she does distinguish them by their most vital statistics (age, occupation, and organ size)—leaves her with what she describes as a “raped nose.”  Another lover, named Kevin, leaves her with a pregnancy she doesn’t want. At that point, the stand-up comedy stops being funny.

Pregnancy aside, Baker focuses on the isolation she feels, stuck between a union that’s hung up on rules and a crazy principal who dictates what she can and can’t wear (“no open-toed shoes,” for example, since the mere sight of naked toes might arouse one of the hornier fathers).

Burn Out Blessings is certainly about career burn out. But nearly all of its comic references—jokes about hip-hop singers and video games—are aimed at a younger audience than the one I joined at a midday performance this weekend. The silence that ensues can be painful. This act needs a lot more work. However, as at least one audience member remarked, at least the birthday cake was good.

Running Time: 30 minutes, with no intermission.

Burn Out Blessings plays through July 28, 2018, at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church—555 Water Street SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call 866-811-4111, or purchase them online.

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