A map of the United States hangs in the background with Jenn Dodd's face all over it. And with good reason. Her one-woman show, Melanchomedy, features a cast of characters from across the country. The sometimes corny, sometimes abrasive sometimes awkward show is based on one simple conceit: Life sucks ... for everybody. And we need to laugh about it or we're going to have an emotional breakdown instead.
Dodd's characters transform before our eyes, the lights dimming between scenes to reveal a subtle hair or outfit change and a giant personality shift. Each character, eight in total, is interconnected by some kind of clever tie-in, a subtle shift that Dodd handles better at some points more than others.
She starts off with reoccurring character Joy, a cranky Time-Warner Cable representative, who stereotypes the classic "on hold" process with the line, "Hello, Time Warner Cable. Go Fuck Yourself." That's what they're all really thinking, let's be honest. Joy's on-point ironic name dictates the type of humor that is to follow.
Dodd makes the shift from one state to next, this time taking on the character of suicidal clown who just can't do the deed (the rope never ends, the gun shoots out a flag that says BANG!, the knife is made of plastic), that is, until her mistreated rabbit emerges from a top hat with a pistol and guns her down.
The follow-up for this skit centers on a Facebook-obsessed relative who's funeral speech revolves around her being "unfriended" by the deceased clown. She creates a hashtag for the funeral while on the podium, followed by a status update on where to go for dinner afterwards. This segment, though snarky, could have been cut off after the first few puns; it dragged on way too long and practically had the audience searching for another sip in their empty wine glasses. The connecting skit included a corpse make-up artist, who had a sketchbook full of the best ways to cover up deadly wounds.
Dodd also treated us to a Midwestern housewife who caught her husband of 25-years plowing the babysitter who used to sell her Girl Scout cookies and later a Long Island Girl Scout grandma who's campfire stories include getting it on "doggy style" and "kitty style." Throughout the performance, Dodd's cynicism shines brightly.
While Dodd's characterization is committed and engaging, a few lackluster moments form between laughs while the audience is left waiting for the joke. Some segments just didn't quite hit the high notes of other sketches, while a couple of the skits go on a little too long. Some simply lack a poignant punch. Those scattered moments of pure cynicism, however, shine during the performance. Those are the moments where the audience is thinking, "Did she really just say that?"
With Melanchomedy, Dodd's sarcasm is in full force, and the awkward yet accurate rants are full of snarky truths that are both relatable and terrifying. People like this actually exist. Sadly, you might be one of them.