June 20, 2016
Squeeze My Cans
Kevin Taft READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Cathy Schenkelberg's long journey through the bowels of Scientology is amusingly brought to life in her one-woman show, "Squeeze My Cans" now playing at the Fringe Theatre Festival. The "cans" in question are the cylindrical objects that victims going through a Scientology auditing are asked to grasp so their electrodermal activity can be measured. The poster for the show shows two reptilian alien hands grasping two curvy boobs; a violation, if you will. Which is, essentially, the backbone of Scientology.
In a black-box theatre with only a chair and a small box as props, Schenkelberg takes us through not only her initiation into Scientology and the years of her life she lost (including almost a million dollars worth of income), but also into her past. Schenkelberg easily switches characters and time-periods with a dizzying energy that is both heart-pumping and electrifying.
While Scientology participants are notoriously close-knit and anyone speaking out against them tend to be threatened (or worse), it's to her credit that Schenkelberg is willing to open up about her experiences with ballsy honesty. The interesting thing is that she doesn't spend 80 minutes damning the religion outright. She is simply presenting what happened to her.
The activities and personalities she was confronted with are presented without comment and simply as fact. The audience interprets this information for themselves and while it's fairly apparent that the religion is a nutty pack of crazeballs, Schenkelberg never directly says this. Oh, her delivery doesn't mess around and when she presents things that are this side of delusional, you know where her opinions land. But it's not an all-out damning of the religion; which adds to the authenticity of the evening.
Directed by Shirley Anderson, the relatively simple show is tight and utilizes sound and projections effectively without drawing us away from the star of the show. Schenkelberg is a dynamic and magnetic personality with terrific comic chops and the ability to emotionally draw us into her world.
A successful voice-over actress, she has performed in musical theatre, TV, and spoken-word. It's unfortunate that we lost many years of her talent when Scientology took her away from her passion and told her she could act in her "next life." We should be thankful she got away, but even more so that she can now offer a personal glimpse (and warning) into the hell she endured. But it's how she has fought her way out risen like a Phoenix since that is the most inspiring. And if Scientology has a problem with that, they might want to rethink their philosophies.
"Squeeze My Cans" runs through June 26 at the Sacred Fools Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038 Los Angeles, CA. For information or tickets, visit www.hollywoodfringe.org. The show will move to the Greenhouse Theatre Center in Chicago, IL July 14-24th. Check www.squeeze mycans.com for more information.
Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.