Kate Gersten confronts America’s obsession with the lives of celebrities in “EXPOSED! The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara.”
Reviewed by Nicole C. Lee
Did you know that German scientists are conducting experiments to determine what fills the heart of the average American? At least, they are in Kate Gersten’s comedy, EXPOSED! The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara. By setting the play in 2029, she’s able to take fair shots at Shiloh and Zahara—the biological and adoptive daughters, respectively, of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. She’s also really able to slam pop culture, much to our grin.
The play opens with Shiloh (Gersten) hiding out in her and Zahara’s LA apartment. After being vilified for fighting with Suri Cruise (you know, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), she’s stayed off everyone’s radar. For three years, she’s been practicing yoga with an automated yoga-bot and providing stock-market tips to delivery boys. Meanwhile, Zahara (Kelly McCreary) has been coping with an identity crisis, experimenting with various activities and participating in group therapy. She used to be a heroin addict, experienced a “Whoopi Goldberg” phase, and currently participates in social protests, believing she is destined to be a strong black leader.
You’ll be laughing, but surprisingly not always at the two main characters. Shiloh is depicted as a carefree, bubbly airhead, but we understand that she has suffered from years of living under the media’s microscope. We equally empathize with Zahara, who is trying to establish herself as someone other than the adoptive African daughter of her famous parents. And while the comical moments in the show are often ridiculous—the end culminates in a Mortal Kombat-like battle—the show maintains a serious undertone about the future of celebrity children.
At one point, EXPOSED! is outright profound: Shiloh stands center stage during a dream sequence and confronts the audience about its obsession with her and other celebrities’ lives. “What’s wrong with you people?” she asks, “Why do you care so much about people you don’t know?” As simple as the question is, it forces us to reflect on the nature of celebrity and our fixation with it. Perhaps we enjoy musing over the goings-on of people like Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, and Paris Hilton because they lead more fascinating lives than we do. Or perhaps it is because—as one of the crazy “fans” in the show states—it brings us comfort to know that their lives are worse than ours.
Gersten takes creative liberties with a wide variety of pop culture, but earns those laughs: Tom Cruise, famous for his membership in the Church of Scientology, is a Devil’s Ambassador with super powers; Blanket Jackson, son of the late and often reclusive Michael Jackson, visits Shiloh; and Lindsay Lohan has died twice. Overall, EXPOSED! is an entertaining and hilarious show, even if the greater socio-cultural implications are ignored.
EXPOSED! The Curious Case of Shiloh and Zahara (90 minutes, no intermission), part of Midtown International Theatre Festival
Mainstage Theater (312 West 36th Street, 4th floor)
Tickets (http://ovationtix.com): $18
Performances: concluded July 30
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