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Blah Blah Fuckin Blah

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BLAH BLAH FUCKIN BLAH

Kristen Kosmas

at Splinter Group Studio, through September 26

There are certain expectations of an artist who dares to title her show Blah Blah Fuckin Blah. To avoid coming off as pretentious or sensational, a performer needs heavy doses of irony and originality, heaps of self-effacement, and a good sense of the absurd. Kristen Kosmas, who wrote and performs a piece of this name, has lots of charm and stage presence but is woefully lacking in all of the above. Blah Blah Fuckin Blah is a curiously well performed nonentity.

As if the title of the show weren't sufficiently problematic, in the program Kosmas explains that after hearing a story about a crazy woman who'd given all her power away, "i went to my teacher, and friend, jim spruill, and asked him to make sense of it for me--this world--and he said, "the kinda anger you're talking about makes art, crime, or revolution.' so, i went back to my collaborative playmaking class and started making this piece. on purpose. and in response."

Kosmas, who wrote Blah Blah Fuckin Blah while a student at Boston University, is now based in Seattle, where the show ran through the summer to packed houses. This three-weekend run is her Chicago debut--and, yes, the house has been jammed, and the audiences have been enthusiastic. But after reading that note in the program all I could think was, uh oh.

Blah Blah Fuckin Blah is a series of dreamlike stories, some fictional, some ostensibly autobiographical, that purportedly respond to the Thomas/Hill hearings, urban legends about women and men, and the nature of truth. It's hard to figure out what's real and what's not, but that's part of Kosmas's point, as she lets us know at the opening with a quote from Henry Miller--the first big sign, in case the title and the program weren't enough, that this is not crime or revolution but Art.

Although Kosmas's tales--about a girl forced to conform by society and family, about the battle between body and brain, and about the need for love and healing in a tortured world--suggest that art, crime, and revolution are all options for her, it is instantly obvious that these are mere pretensions. "I don't know if I'm the artist, the criminal, or the revolutionary," she says. "This is where I get confused. I think I'm raping myself with your body."

But a few minutes with Kosmas and we can't understand her confusion. Wholesome, seriously overattached to the word "amazing," and, as she tells us, rich, she is no candidate for crime or revolution, even in the way of someone like graffiti artist Lady Pink. Later, when one of Kosmas's characters tells her she looks like a fighter, we wonder why: there's no support for this self-aggrandizing assertion, either visually or textually. Whether inadvertently or not, it casts her as some kind of hero-savior for those less fortunate, in this case her two fellow inmates at what may be a jail or an asylum.

I suspect the crux of the problem is revealed in Kosmas's throwaway line about her class background. It comes across as a kind of confession--a weird assertion with nothing leading up to it and no exploration following it, as if that acknowledgment alone were meant to give the piece and her thoughts some authenticity. It's as if she were answering some invisible accuser who's charged her with hidden motives: "Hey, I'm not hiding anything, OK?" Instead of taking on the complexity of all the class and political tension that throwaway line reveals and exploring it with some depth from her real position--as someone with privilege who understands that not everyone's so lucky--Kosmas unfortunately casts herself as one of the luckless, as someone who can join and lead the masses.

The truth is Kosmas doesn't know where she stands, but she wants desperately to stand somewhere important. At the end of the show she yells shut up! (perhaps at her silent accuser), straightens her shoulders, and with what I swear was all the conviction of a five-year-old in the middle of a tantrum says, "I have something to say."

And I'm watching and thinking, So what are we supposed to make of all this? Kosmas missed every opportunity for irony, and what little self-effacement came through was safe and trite. The politics in Blah Blah Fuckin Blah are a mess of worn-out ideas, kaffeeklatsch feminism, faddish sexual ambiguity, and self-indulgence. That the material is delivered with confidence, charm, and sure timing doesn't redeem it. In a way, it only makes its sophistry more enraging.

Kristen Kosmas hasn't a clue.

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