By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
If today‘s pop culture seems unduly dominated by children -- let’s face it, we‘re bombarded by an endless stream of news reports about toys, awash in talking-baby films, tyrannized by juvenile consumerism -- rest assured that Juditz’s solo show is no cute play for sympathy. Her two-hour monologue unfolds like a complex music composition, by turns gentle, sardonic and frightening. (The last 20 minutes are as nail-biting as they come.) Attired in a long floral-print dress and sensible shoes, Juditz presents an image of aching simplicity. True, her show could probably drop the slides that are projected on a nearby screen (there seemed to be a Powerpoint meltdown on the night I attended), but the soft little voice and sincere eyes onstage never let us forget we are in the company of a woman who has a lot to lose by being honest, but who is too trusting not to be. a
Juditz, 44, was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and, following graduation from Bucknell University, moved to New York to break into acting, only to find herself pigeonholed in kooky character roles for TV commercials. She and Kirschenbaum, a television writer, moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s, and, a few years later, she began appearing onstage. Perhaps her most memorable piece has been Teshuva, Return, the story of her journey as a Protestant with a Jewish-sounding name, who retraces her family‘s roots to Germany, only to confront anti-Semitic relatives indifferent to the Holocaust. By the end of this evening of self-discovery, she has become a Jew.
Juditz and Kirschenbaum live on a leafy street in Burbank, halfway between the town’s Media District and its Equestrian Center. A flagstone walk lined with snapdragons winds up to an alpine-looking house built in the 1930s. These days, Juditz‘s life is divided between Molly and her appearances on the storytelling circuit, which is composed of a decidedly mixed bag of performers that includes monologists, folk musicians and children’s entertainers, and who typically gather in huge tents. “The National Storytelling Festival is the really big one,” Juditz says. “It‘s in Jonesborough, Tennessee, where they show up with pickup trucks, big hats and guns.” It’s also where she learned that not all of her stories work in every region, as one listener who sat through Teshuva made clear after her performance.
“I don‘t really like this kind of thing,” the man drawled, “but you were good.”
Sometimes, in the course of her life, Juditz cannot help but think that an unfolding incident might eventually make a good performance (“I just knew my wedding would be a story,” she confesses, “and so bought a wedding dress I knew I could later perform in”). She usually tries not to view her life as potential stage material, however, and often excludes from her work details that might seem, from a distance, to be innately dramatic. Babies, for example, ends with Molly’s birth, but Juditz doesn‘t mention her failed attempts later on to have another child through a second surrogate mother.
Nor does she view her live performance work in terms of movie-of-the-week potential. “I am the most un-Hollywood person,” she says in the little voice that sounds so vulnerable. “It’s just who I am.”