Theater Review by Rebecca Curl, February 19, 2017
4 out of 4 stars
Back by popular demand, Cathy Schenkelberg’s Squeeze My Cans is sure to once again be a hit in the Chicago Theatre scene. Directed by Shirley Anderson, Squeeze My Cans takes audiences into the world of scientology as Cathy shares her real-life account of her time spent as a Scientologist. Following its popularity in last summer’s Solo Celebration! Series, Greenhouse Theater Center has chosen to bring this eccentric exploration of generally uncharted territory back for a full run. Be prepared to embark on a rollercoaster of emotions as you follow Cathy through the best and absolute worst moments of her life thus far.
Performing in a one-woman show is no easy feat. Cathy Schenkelberg’s dynamic nature made for an incredibly energetic and captivating performance, which successfully engaged audience members for the duration of the show. She should be commended for her ability to simultaneously captivate an entire room while still making you feel as if she is personally reaching out to you with her advice. From the beginning of the performance, Cathy makes the environment an inviting one, which allows audience members to open both their minds and hearts to the stories and advice she is eager to share.
The overarching theme behind Schenkelberg’s performance is one that will affect most of us at some point in our lives. We have all faced that moment where everything seems to be falling apart and all that we want is the grand solution to all of our problems—the big chance to truly find ourselves and finally become someone worthwhile. As Cathy teaches us, it is in these moments that we have a tendency to desperately cling to whatever “saving grace” happens to come our way, often without fully exploring the consequences awaiting us a little further down the road. Schenkelberg depicts just how vulnerable a human being faced with numerous hardships can become and thus helps us realize that we must not give in so easily to a “quick fix” for life’s problems. She points out the beauty in the present that we often neglect to acknowledge, as we are constantly looking for bigger and better opportunities. Squeeze My Cans teaches audiences about the importance of timing within our lives and how the situations that are often the most devastating for us seem to always find us at our most vulnerable moments.
Cathy Schenkelberg’s production makes strong commentary on the inner turmoil all human beings face at one point or another, while also teaching its audiences a fair amount about Scientology and its inner-workings. It is probably safe to assume that the average person knows little about Scientology, so from an educational standpoint, Squeeze My Cans is extremely fascinating. Simply reading a news article or hearing a brief statement on television about this religion will only tell you so much; Cathy provides us with a deeper, darker view into this unfamiliar world. Through both hilarious and horrifying anecdotes of her time spent as a Scientologist, audiences will leave the theater with not only a broadened education on the subject, but also an understanding that things are not always as they seem. What starts out as a small investment in a seemingly brighter future for Cathy, turns into a dangerous and devastating fall into a black hole. Schenkelberg’s account is a cautionary tale, which will leave audience members reflecting on the choices they have made thus far in their own lives.
Adding to Schenkelberg’s strong performance were Brandon Baruch’s lighting design and Victorio (Toy) Deiorio’s sound and projection designs. Baruch’s lighting complemented the mood of each of Cathy’s anecdotes—with several particularly striking moments near the end of the performance. The often eerie lighting set the tone for each scene, driving the intensity of Cathy’s emotions to an unsettling and thus deeply affecting state. Deiorio’s projections served as more than just a backdrop to Schenkelberg’s words as they emphasized both her financial ruin and the Scientologists’ most farfetched beliefs. Without Baruch and Deiorio’s strong designs, it is possible that some of the production’s hardest hitting aspects may not have resonated as strongly with audience members.
If you are looking for an evening of both enlightenment and entertainment, then look no further than Cathy Schenkelberg’s production of Squeeze My Cans at Greenhouse Theater Center. Cathy delivers a poignant, yet oftentimes hilarious exploration of the human condition through her personal account of her time as a Scientologist. For anyone who feels stuck in their current situation, this is the production for you. Schenkelberg’s words resonate deep with those struggling to find themselves among the chaos of our world. With works such as Squeeze My Cans being made accessible to audiences, we can only hope that we all learn to slow down a little bit and truly appreciate all that we already have in front of us.
Squeeze My Cans runs now through March 12, 2017 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 7:30pm & 10pm, and Sundays at 2pm. The performance runs approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. For tickets, please visit www.greenhousetheater.org, visit the box office, or call 773-404-7336. For more information, please visit www.theatreinchicago.com.
Rebecca Curl is a freelance wig and make-up artisan and writer based in Chicago. She recently received her BFA in Wig and Make-up Design and an English Minor from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. Follow her on Twitter!