Zdenka Now:what just happened?
Zdenka Now! was hilarious and revealing until Precious Chong abandoned us on a bus with an Inuk teenager and broke the whimsical and romantic reverie of her off-the-wall characters.
Moving but non-sensical, Zdenka Now! held together thanks to the utter commitment and talent of Chong. Why these characters are on stage, I can't say, but I was gripped to know what sorry case would pop out from the racks of clothing and Chong’s bizarro brain.
Barely clinging to the premise of its format, the audience is introduced to the No. 1 television talk show host of the former Yugoslavia, Zdenka, the host of Zdenka Now! Love, magic, fantasy: these are her catchphrases and what else would a woman crave after suffering career implosion and existential crisis as her nation and government and success crumbled around her. At least, these are my guesses at her personal history since Zdenka tells us little of herself but carries on with a live performance of her Oprah-meets-Springer telecast.
She holds a PhD from the University of Belgrade, but what she thinks of the dismantling of the former Soviet Union, we can only surmise from her self-inflicted contentment and rainbow-sequined figure-skating get-up. She preaches fresh and nutritious snacking (lemons seem to do the trick) and visiting the existential void hand-in-hand with another ("let's go there together").
The hole in her own psychology and biography is plugged by the segment guests Zdenka brings on stage or features in video clips.
Sheilagh is an LBCO clerk who embezzles AirMiles points and thinks quoting Sylvia Path will appeal to men she meets in the world of online dating. She's Anne of Green Gables juvenile with a dash of Blanche DuBois desperation.
Barb wears a matted mullet and succumbs to her love for a girl she abandoned 21 years ago. Her hip-thrusting sexual revolution happens despite taking to centre stage at the 2010 GM convention. Conventional American greed and five-star safety are finally pushed aside and Barb pursues her true self. Oprah would be proud.
How is Zdenka involved in the lives of these women? Who knows? The skits stand-alone but the whole is disjointed. Zdenka may be a genius-cum-guru of day-time Slavic self-help, but these segments don’t tie together. A sketch with a teen on a bus is so out of place it’s uncomfortable; Chong is as mesmerizing as ever, but this skit belongs somewhere else.
A fascinating immersion of actress in the love lives of the hapless, Zdenka Now! is nonetheless incomplete.
Zdenka Now! is on as part of the Vancouver Fringe. For more information go here.