As she cradles a broom onstage in an outré introduction to her show, Kate Berlant insists to the audience that despite their assumptions, she doesn’t do this part every night. Her sweeping-entrance impulse is a result of her migraine medication, she explains, analysing and deconstructing her own actions in a spiky, casual start which sets the tone for the hour: she spits “the show starts NOW!” at one point. She plays with audience preconceptions and riffs off her surroundings, mocking her tiny elevation onstage and expressing her fears that the seminar room setting may send her audience to sleep.
There’s little danger of that in her show, though, as the audience are kept on their toes. Berlant’s self-possessed persona continually deconstructs what she’s doing, telling the audience tales only to reveal them as lies in the next moment. The show is roughly based around the claim that Berlant is psychic and can pick up information from the audience, but the tone is kept strictly ironic and absurdist. She shines in her interactions with the audience, even when people are uncooperative. One audience member who tries to be smart and undermine her – “aren’t you supposed to guess that?” – is put firmly in his place, drawing Berlant cheers from the crowd, while her long list of failed guesses and subsequent attempts to make them fit provide cause for hilarity. Berlant’s takedown of comedy show norms and commitment to her persona are impressive, and explain her recently rising status in the US.
However, the hour-long slot drags slightly, with the repeated questions becoming a bit wearing before Berlant’s energy picks up again towards the end. It’s a meandering show that’s clever and intriguing, but easier to admire than to love.