Too Many Lenas 3: Let Them Eat Cake

by Teddy Nicholas · July 12, 2014

The Obie-winning Ice Factory Festival continues its 2014 season with Too Many Lenas 3: Let Them Eat Cake (playing thru Saturday) created and performed by the pop-up performance collective Carroll Simmons.

[On this fourth of July in the year of our flying spaghetti monster 2014--just days after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-to-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (which Thomas Pynchon novel am I inhabiting?) that closely-held-for-profit corporations do not have to abide by laws they deem morally reprehensible, sparked by the company’s refusal to cover contraceptives as guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, thus generating another battle in a long unjust war in which an institution deems what women can or can’t do with their own bodies--I find myself writing at length about, and in meditation with, the persona known only as Lena Dunham.]

And so it was I found myself on a rain-soaked night at the New Ohio Theatre on Christopher Street to bear witness to the satirization and celebration of Lena Dunham as performed by the members of the pop-up performance collective known as Carroll Simmons under the direction of David Bernstein. Too Many Lenas 3: Let Them Eat Cake is a self-aware satire of the self-aware writer/director/performer of all aspects of Lena Dunham.

A coven of Lena Dunhams, six of them including MFA Lena (Bethany Allen), Apologetic Lena (the stand-out Tessa Skara who also choreographed the piece), Self-Depicted Lena (Sam Corbin), Perfect Lena (Haley Traub), Naked Lena (Jaime Wright) and Urban Lena (Elizabeth Trieu), go about their daily rituals: performing dance routines, clutching their crystals to summon Judd Apatow, transmogrifying existing texts such as Ginsberg’s Howl to fit into contemporary hipsterdom. This isn’t a plot-driven narrative-based play so don’t expect to be following a story. Instead, we are following the id, ego and superego of a twenty-something white female celebrity as interpreted by a collection of twenty-something mostly-white college-educated artists. Artists tend to have a beef with other artists. It’s an inevitable outcome of the field where we artists are competing for space (both rehearsal and performance), press, and, of course, money. And these artists’ beef with Lena seem to focus mostly on her self-centeredness and her privilege, but without the foundation of the other, without knowing where the members of Carroll Simmons are coming from, their personal struggles and ideologies, we have no idea and no guide to understand their true feelings. Instead, all we get to experience is a filtered-down parody, a satire-simulcarum of the original: Lena Dunham.

Occasionally there is an MC of sorts in TML 3, played by Peter Mills Weiss, who awkwardly welcomes us into the Dunhamverse and holds court over a selfie parade. But this is a celebration of women as much as it is a celebration of Dunham which is deeply important in these troubling times where women’s rights are still an issue in America. Dunham, whose HBO show Girls portrays contemporary life for twenty-something women in Brooklyn, not only speaks to the Google generation, it inspires more conversation, and more art.

It must be noted this isn’t my first show this year dealing with Lena Dunham. Chiara Atik’s WOMEN played earlier this year at People’s Improv Theater (and subsequently the LA Fringe), which I also reviewed here. Both shows poke fun of but ultimately pay homage to Dunham’s hypertextualized dialogue and contemporary hipster women’s issues. With swift, energized direction by David Bernstein, this in-yer-face comedy tackles je-ne-c’est-hipstery twenty-something post-collegiate ennui with pitch perfect hilarity. Catch it before it vanishes into the ether.





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