NYC. New review of A Simple Herstory from David Cote. David was the longest serving theater editor and chief drama critic of Time Out New York. His writing has also appeared in Opera News, The Village Voice, The Guardian, The Times (UK) and The New York Times. He currently writes for the Observer and the A.V. Club, and elsewhere.
***** Haunted, Hilarious, Harrowing History!
Part ghost story, part secret history, part meta-podcast satire, A Simple Herstory was an exhilarating ride. What you assume will be a linear exploration of a little-known corner of American Presidential History explodes into a grotesque, panoramic survey of 19th-century society, mysticism, and gender inequality. It’s like reading a fat novel that surprises you with wild changes in font and typography, with startling pop-ups that come out of nowhere. There’s a powerful feminist message of self-empowerment and speaking truth to history, but also the deeper mystery of being human, impossible choices in amoral times, and who controls the narrative. In other words, it’s frighteningly topical. Apart from its intellectual sweep, humor, and genre slipperiness, A Simple Herstory has one of the most talented casts you will ever enjoy in your headphones. Some of the finest NYC stage performers (also seen in TV and movies) have assembled to lend their vocal acumen to the scripts. Kara Young is smart and hilariously flustered as the host; Florencia Lozano’s Victoria Woodhull is a delectable demonic diva; and Daphne Rubin-Vega works those silky, insinuating tones as Victoria’s disillusioned sister. If Ken Burns took a tab of acid and then went on all the rides at Coney Island, you might get something like this. Best of all, the series—scripted by Jonathan A. Goldberg and directed by Donya K. Washington—can only happen in audio. Its Alice-in-Wonderland shifts in reality, its phantasmagoric ghost pageantry, its blend of voices overlapping and fighting to be heard—work brilliantly to create epic theater in our heads.
-David Cote, Theater Critic