Oh | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Oh--That's The Second Hand, at Voltaire. An autobiography in 60 minutes is rather a tall order. But the highly energetic Sara Karl does a pretty good job of pulling it off, racing from unremarkable suburban youth to urban disillusionment at age 30. Along the way she ticks off stints on the pep squad and in a sorority, her brother's death from AIDS, her love affair with her husband-to-be, her dissatisfaction with married life and a passel of unfulfilling careers before ultimately finding herself.

Karl reveals the toll that this rather ordinary life has taken on her only in short, sudden bursts of sober self-knowledge. A scene she reenacts--in which she mentioned her brother's recent death to a college date, then grinningly made it seem like no big deal--is chillingly realistic. And when she lovingly replays the moment she proposed to her husband, then follows it with a matter-of-fact announcement that the marriage was unsuccessful, her icy detachment resonates.

But much of Karl's one-woman show lacks that kind of specificity. And though she's generally entertaining and amiable under the solid direction of George Lewis and Dan Morris, her observations and accounts lack depth--they seem more generic than universal. Ostensibly delivering a confessional, Karl often seems content to maintain a smiling and sprightly exterior. --Adam Langer

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