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by Betsy Salkind
additional writing by Becky Neiman
Chutzpah! Festival
Jewish Community Centre
Wosk 2nd Stage
Feb. 21-25

Billed as “Betsy Salkind’s hilarious one-woman satire of Anne Franxploitation,” this 45 minute show is, in places, hilarious, and it certainly does satirize the exploitation of the Anne Frank story, this time by Hollywood.  Salkind plays nasal, squeaky-voiced 10-year-old but precocious beyond her years Ethel Spiliotes, whose outrageous blog (as “angrygirl10”), complete with holocaust jokes, attracts the Fox network to offer her a deal in a sitcom version of Anne’s story: “It’s Barney Miller meets Big Brother!”  Salkind also plays the British producer, a deaf actress cast as the Franks’ neighbour—a handicapped character to deflect accusations of exploitation—and all the other cast (Burt Reynolds as Mr. Frank, Rosie O’Donnell, Tony Danza).

The premise is only barely outrageous, given what actually appears on TV (especially Fox), but Salkind does take chances with this material, especially at a Jewish performance festival.  No one walked out the night I saw it but you can certainly imagine the possibility of a backlash.  Salkind’s position has probably been made easier by a comic like Sarah Silverman, who is doing much the same kind of thing with taboo material, and doing it in high profile TV and performance venues.

A talented comedienne, Salkind still needs to work harder on her delivery and timing.  She also badly needs a dramaturg to help shape her shapeless material and trim the dross, and she desperately needs a new director (Jeff Marcus gets credit here) to help turn a ragged, intermittently funny sketch into a polished, potent, dangerous satire.

Jerry Wasserman