Oh, baby! (Pochsy's Adventures by the Sea)

Letter from Toronto

From Pochsy to Napoleon: The hits and misses of the spring season.


TheaterWeek June 6-12, 1994

A winter vacation to a tropical island shimmers as a blissful fantasy on a cold February night - but not if your companion is the sweetly poisonous Pochsy, the self-styled heroine of her own life and the key figure in Oh, Baby.

Writer/performer Karen Hines introduced the character several years ago in Pochsy's Lips, a delightfully wicked piece which presented the white-gowned, white-faced and kohl-eyed Pochsy - rhymes with doxy - in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV tube. That earlier show played Alice's Fourth Floor in Manhattan in February 1993, and is now on tour to Minneapolis and Denver. There are plans to mount Oh, Baby in New York at a future date.

Totally narcissistic yet anxious for love, the smiling and seemingly innocent Pochsy skewers politically correct attitudes, especially ecological matters, with a darkly comic style. Her hospital visit in Pochsy's Lips is due, we gather, to the labor-saving technique she devised in her job. Packing beads of mercury that sometimes landed on the floor, Pochsy found the easiest way to retrieve the drops was to lick her finger and pick them up.

In Oh, Baby - presumably preserved in fluorescent mercury herself - Pochsy embarks on an island holiday for a little rest-and-recreation at The Last Resort. Ever the Betty Boop waif, dripping with patent insincerity, Pochsy toys with phone sex, environmental concerns, loneliness in the '90s and friendship. She also encounters an angel, addresses God "I talk and he listens; ours isn't an interactive relationship", guilt-trips her parents and fantasizes about an ideal future "The world is my oyster; I shall not want." But no matter the topic, she makes herself the center - no, the be-all and end-all of every adventure in the show, revised for this production at the Factory Theater Studio Cafe since its sold-out run at the Toronto fringe festival last summer.

Monstrous innocence collides head-on with colossal egotism as Pochsy recounts the touching events of a friend's funeral. "But it's okay," she reassures us, "don't feel sorry for me. I don't need her any more."

Style is all-important here, and, working with director Sandra Balcovske, Hines exquisitely combines the angelic and the narcissistic. Complete with breathy little-girl voice, innocent expressions and stylized gestures, she performs tuneful ditties (Jolson feel-good melodies and Garland heart-on-sleeve tunes co-created with Greg Morrison) and lectures on life aTOP a half-shell. Pochsy is the perfect Botticelli Venus, reborn with attitude.

But Michel Charbonneau's clever shell-and-beach set is also the lip of a volcano surrounded by slag chips, a combined image of birth and death. Though the apocalypse may flutter close by, no one blends biblical echoes and brand-name supermarket products with more aplomb than Pochsy. From her lacquer-hard perch, she provides audiences with the perfect pina colada, followed by an arsenic chaser.

Oh, baby! (Pochsy's Adventures by the Sea)

Pochsy's back in town


The Globe and Mail - Nov. 22, 1992



Directed by Sandra Balcovske

Starring Karen Hines

Karen Hines' one-woman show Oh, Baby is a remount of a sequel (to the much-admired Pochsy's Lips), so you may already know that it features the loopy storytelling and engaging presence of Hines' clown creation, Pochsy.

This time, Pochsy is on a "dream vacation," in many more ways than one. Pochsy's life, after all, is made up of fantasies, which intertwine so thoroughly with her real life that it is seldom clear where one ends and the other begins. As she tells her story, fantasy and reality are both Informed by the same sly humour and off-beat, on-the-mark observation, so maybe there is no difference.

The vacation - she has just been laid off by Mercury Packers, "where I pack mercury" - and is off to The Last Resort, "on a little island just off the state of grace." Pochsy tries to mix with the resort crowd, but nothing seems to connect. Even the "chat line" phone calls she charges to other rooms inevitably go wonky, and a sexual adventure with a singed angel ends up in ashes.

Although she can be self-centred to the point of cruelty, Pochsy has enough built-in warmth and vulnerability charm. And Hines is an attractive, gracefully expressive performer, with slyly clever delivery and a lot of personality. The pale costume white-face makeup and ruby-red, Clara Bow mouth make her a strikingly watchable stage presence. Her slightest move is deftly choreographed, and effective.

The script, by Hines with an assist from director Sandra Balcovske, is weirdly intelligent, and carefully and intricately made. There is the standard beginning, middle and end, but crossed by dozens of diverting, surreal digressions that suddenly implode with relevance.

Greg Morrison's score, which he performs live, is full of aural jokes and perfectly integrated into the show, and Michel Charbonneau's giant seashell set and clever lighting complement the performances without ever getting in the way.

Oh, Baby by is another one of those good Fringe shows that has been re-mounted, hoping for larger audiences. It certainly deserves them.