Review: Squeeze My Cans (Greenhouse Theater)

| March 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in her one-woman show Squeeze My Cans, directed by Shirley Anderson (photo by Aleksandr           
      

Squeeze My Cans

Written & Performed by Cathy Schenkelberg
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Mar 12  March 19  |  tix: $25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


Now extended thru March 19th  

  

Funny and sharp survival tale

  

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in her one-woman show Squeeze My Cans, directed by Shirley Anderson (photo by Aleksandr

    
Greenhouse Theater Center presents
    
Squeeze My Cans

Review by Lauren Whalen

Cathy Schenkelberg is many things: a successful voice-over artist and performer, a single mother, a Nebraska native, one of ten children, someone who lost her older brother at an early age. And for over a decade, Schenkelberg was a Scientologist. Her “training” began with a personality test at the Chicago Scientology Center on Lincoln Avenue (steps away from the Athenaeum Theatre), then to the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles and eventually to Clearwater, Florida, Scientology’s unofficial “home.” At one point, Schenkelberg auditioned to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend. Squeeze My Cans is her story, a whirlwind solo show about aliens, families and faith. Funny and heartbreaking, it tries a little too hard most of the time but is worth the trip to Lincoln Park.

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in Squeeze My Cans, Greenhouse Theater, directed by Shirley Anderson (photo AleksandraBy now, most of us are aware of Scientology, the mysterious “religion” conceived of by author L. Ron Hubbard and memorialized in the 2000 box-office flop “Battlefield Earth.” Scientology boasts high-profile members like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, and more recently, ex-members such as Leah Remini, who’s since written a book about her experiences with the church. Unlike most churches, Scientology doesn’t to help the poor, hungry and sick, nor does it center around a deity. Instead, Scientology concentrates on the individual personality, magnifying ability for all it is worth. There are also aliens involved (an episode of “South Park” circa 2005 covers the origin story very well). Oh, and it’s incredibly expensive and time-consuming to become and stay a member. Schenkelberg projects a running tally of the near-million dollars she spent over the years and talks at length of the credit cards she opened and the weekly sums she wired directly to the church.

Schenkelberg is candid and explicit as to what led her to pursue Scientology. As a young woman living in Chicago and Los Angeles, she was pursuing an acting career with some success but, like many early twentysomethings, was searching for her true purpose in life. Anyone who’s studied cults knows that they prey on the lonely and vulnerable – bonus points if they can get their hands on your money. Thanks to Schenkelberg’s frank voice, Squeeze My Cans makes it easy to see why she stayed for so long, even after her then-nine-year-old daughter expressed tangible qualms. Like most cults, Scientology doesn’t just offer meaning, it offers a community, a network that gets increasingly difficult to leave the longer one stays.

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in Squeeze My Cans at Greenhouse Theater, directed by Shirley Anderson (photo Aleksandr

My main issue with Squeeze My Cans is that at times, it tries too hard. Schenkelberg’s story is so emotional and compelling, her journey so true-to-life, that gimmicks aren’t necessary – yet the audience is treated to plenty. We don’t really need a dance number to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to illustrate how far Schenkelberg has fallen down the rabbit hole. Her comic yet vulnerable anecdotes and adventures are enough, yet neither the writer/performer nor director Shirley Anderson seem to trust them. Without the gratuitous silliness, Squeeze My Cans would be even more effective, but it falls into the trap of gimmick over and over again.

Despite this glaring flaw, Schenkelberg is charismatic and winning, and the audience roots for her the entire fast-paced 80 minutes. Squeeze My Cans offers a rare non-celebrity glimpse into a “church” that even after the dawn of the Internet, remains mysterious and more than a little foreboding. (There are lots of disappearances and deaths of ex-members and even former church leaders.) Squeeze My Cans is a memorable solo show of a unique yet universal experience: falling under the spell of something that turns out to be rotten and destructive. Schenkelberg is relatable and hilarious, and when she’s not trying so hard to make us laugh, she’s very successful at making us think.

  
Rating: ★★★
  

Squeeze My Cans continues through March 12th March 19th at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Thursdays & Fridays 7:30pm, Saturdays 2pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $25 (students: $20), and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online through Vendini.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at GreenhouseTheater.org(Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission)

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in Squeeze My Cans, Greenhouse Theater, (photo Aleksandra Mendel)

Photos by Aleksandra Mendel


  

artists

cast

Cathy Schenkelberg

behind the scenes

Shirley Anderson (director), Brandon Baruch (lighting design), Victoria (toy) Deiorio (sound and projection design), Ron Rude (production manager), Aleksandra Mendel (photos)

Cathy Schenkelberg stars in Squeeze My Cans, Greenhouse Theater, directed by Shirley Anderson

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Greenhouse Theater, Lauren Whalen, One-Man Show, Theatre Festival

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