Pochsy: Unplugged

Pochsy Unplugged

By Rebecca Caldwell (for the Globe and Mail)

World Stage, at Harbourfront Centre - April 22, 2005

Words and melodies by Karen Hines.

Music and sound by Greg Morrison.

Before she became known as the steely self-righteous Karen on cult-favourite TV show The Newsroom, Toronto's Karen Hines invented the cabaret-style clown Pochsy, whose beguiling sweetness carries a venomous aftertaste as she caustically sends up the preoccupations of contemporary life, namely rampant consumerism. The collection of her trio of Pochsy plays -- Pochsy's Lips, Oh, baby and Citizen Pochsy -- was last year short-listed for a GovernorGeneral's Award for Drama. Hines's latest stage show, Pochsy Unplugged, revisits some of her best material.

Long-time musical collaborator Greg Morrison accompanies her on piano for segments including favourites such as being audited, Pochsy's adoption of a post-Buddhist lifestyle, her job at Mercury Packers (packing mercury) -- and her doctor's appointments for mercury-poisoning treatment. In Pochsy, Hines has created a truly subversive character who both blindly accepts meaningless maxims and then explodes them with perfect deadpan timing, one who is fluent in the jargon of current coolspeak but never quite willing to face the chill of its real meaning. "The future belongs to the children," she'll say with air-headed optimism, waiting a beat before adding, "at least some of them."

As Hines's character sings to her foster child, whose name she has never managed to learn how to pronounce, "It's a horribly beautiful world" and Pochsy Unplugged is a horribly beautiful, wickedly funny show.

Pochsy: Unplugged

Pochsy a minx of laughs and distress

Robert Crew (for the Toronto Star)

Harbourfront Centre's Studio Theatre - April 24, 2005

Written and performed by Karen Hines.

Directed by Sandra Balcovske.

Karen Hines' Pochsy, the crown princess of narcissism, has become one of the little gems of Canadian theatre, an unforgettable character steeped in equal measures of honey and acid.

We first met her in 1992 in a show called Pochsy's Lips, to be followed a year or so later by the prequel, called Oh Baby. But Toronto has never seen a full run of part III, called Citizen Pochsy, which has been around for about three years.

Now we get a chance to sample at least some of that material. Pochsy Unplugged, now at the World Stage: Flying Solo festival, is a clever distillation of all three pieces.

Pochsy, with her cupid-bow lips, cute black outfit, white headband and long boots, starts by having a word with God. "I'll believe in you if you believe in me," she says. "And for those that have hurt me, please God, find a way to hurt them back."

Pochsy is all about self and doesn't want children —"I don't want to be life-giving, I want to be breathtaking." She had a foster child for a while but can't quite get her name right or remember where she lives and besides the cheque she wrote for the charity bounced, so they lost touch.

"I have been super-busy lately," she explains.

Oh, she knows about the world's problems, such as overpopulation, melting icecaps, countries waging war on each other, and so on. It's just that the right banking plan is at the forefront of her mind at present, and she has difficulty coming up with such words as "compassion" and "holocaust."

If this were all, the Pochsy saga would be a finely honed satire of the all-absorbing consumerism of contemporary society but Hines pushes it further.

Pochsy is victim as well as villain; she has worked for years for Mercury Packing and it's much easier to lick your bare fingers and pick up those little blobs of mercury rather than wear gloves.

Pochsy is dying but thinks her doctor has a crush on her because he is submitting her to a battery of tests that can't possibly be justified.

Her sweet self-delusion, her very real fear of growing old and of dying alone — all of this is heartbreaking. "I am only being human," she sings.

Hines works the audience beautifully, relishes the comic effect of a well-placed pause and has developed a wonderful physical signature for the role. The music, with Greg Morrison at the piano, is perfect for the cabaret-style presentation.

Pochsy may be one of a kind but there is a little piece of her in all of us.