It was not until the very end that I noticed the full title of this week’s Cabaret show: “Babs the Dodo — a sad comedy.”
And a sad comedy it was. Though it begins uproariously with the antics of the titular character Babs Gillespie (Liz Wisan DRA ’10) — a charming and seemingly happy woman who sells jewelry on the Shopping Channel — the show, written and directed by Michael Mitnick DRA ’10, quickly dives into depressing tragedy as we learn that Babs, a lonely divorcée, spends her 50th birthday on a date arranged online. Babs is then systematically degraded over the course of the show until she commits suicide with a potato peeler and turns into a Dodo bird, at which point she is finally appreciated as bird-lovers across the country purchase her on her own show.
As a veteran of the Yale Cabaret, I know not to expect feel-good shows. This week, however, I walked away feeling thoroughly disturbed. Until I realized that it was just a performance, I sat in the dark underground room of the Yale Cabaret imagining how many people’s lives approximate the despondency of that of Babs Gillespie. In this regard, the show achieved its artistic purpose of provoking thought from the audience.
During the course of the deepening tragedy, I often felt like I needed to detach myself from the performance lest I develop depression afterwards. This task proved not at all difficult since the acting was at times lackluster, and therefore was not adequately believable to fully absorb the audience in the story. In my opinion, this was ultimately a good thing, as it allowed viewers to cling to reality and laugh freely at jokes that would be in terrible taste if Babs’ circumstances were realistic. Indeed, this was perhaps the only reason the comedic side of this story was not smothered by its tragic context, and I am inclined to believe that everything about the performance was planned just so, and that the actors played their parts with all these considerations in mind.
All in all, “Babs the Dodo” is a thought-provoking piece, well worth a trip to the cavern of the Yale Cabaret. It plays tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Next week, the Yale Cabaret will present “Flowers and Other Stories” by Jose Rivera.