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Review: 1 IN A CHAMELEON at The Arch, Holden Street Theatres - ADL Fringe

Review by Lisa Lanzi

Brooklynite Narie Foster is accomplished, even prior to launching her career as a comedian/story-teller.  As she will tell you, Narie was brought up in a household of science types, eventually studied engineering, then worked in high level business for a time.

Foster’s comedy is gentle, heartfelt, honest, and female-centred.  The laughter-inducing lines come from an intelligent soul, some deep thinking, and a willingness to show vulnerability.  It is very easy to warm to this performer, and I’m always delighted to support a female in comedy’s male dominated world.  Although labelled as comedy, Foster’s act is closer to theatrical monologue which makes me love it even more.  

Honesty also shapes this story as Foster digs into her own life story.  Born to Thai and Canadian parents in New York, she describes not quite ‘fitting’ into any one culture.  There is also much chat about finding and recognising purpose as a human then having the courage to embrace it, even if a little scary.  In her first moments addressing the audience, Foster asks when self-consciousness first ‘hit’:  were we born with it, did it surface in school (that arena of bullying and hierarchy), or at some later point.  She also ponders the concept of belonging and how identity is shaped, playfully using colourful hoops to ‘frame’ each identity she has inhabited.

Some of the lovely things about this show are the rich imagery and poetic flow of the monologue, sometimes emphatic, sometimes rambling in a poignant way.  That edgy vulnerability shows up as insecurity at times but it is difficult to ascertain if it is the performer’s shtick or her own ‘on stage’ nerves.  Foster also maintains beautiful focus on the audience, really talking to us, except when hand to chin and covering her mouth, she pauses to reflect a moment - again, does that indicate a performative moment or a loss of lines?  It didn’t matter which, as both performer and narrative are so engaging.

Initially appearing in plain black trousers and turtleneck, Foster mentions the joys of said turtleneck, shrugs and announces “this is me”.  In time, as she poses to us the question a friend asked of her, costume changes (on stage) reveal many layers of clothing shed sequentially, just like the layers of self we all function with, then utilise or discard.  That fateful question “… how free would you say you feel…?” steers Foster to her freedom scale of 1 to 10, the bold black numbers displayed on freshly laminated, crisp white signs.  With one moment of assistance from an audience member, Foster uses incidents from her own history to recount her ascendance (from zero actually) through to freedom level 10, and those brief, shining instances where a particular freedom ‘level’ transpired.  Those costume layers added a level of hilarity, more so as Foster did not make obvious jokes about the looks, merely wielded the ‘covering’ until her whimsical storytelling made the connections. 

1 in a Chameleon may not resonate with everyone, but it is a beautiful comedy of words and existential questioning from a unique talent.  I would definitely return to watch Narie Foster perform,  especially given the nuanced theatricality that elevates the comedic to the realm of theatre.  Brava!

Image Supplied


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