Review: "Pretty Beast": Hear Her Roar
Written and performed by Kazu Kusano
Presented by FRIGID New York at The Kraine Theater
85 E 4th St, Manhattan, NYC
February 18-March 1, 2023
|Kazu Kusano. Photo by Matt Misisco
But if "pretty beast" describes Kusano and her embrace of penis jokes over propriety, it equally looks to her mother, a beautiful woman who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when Kusano was born and whose mental illness deeply impacted Kusano as she grew up (including in how her imitation of her favorite comedy show is tied in part ot the fact that the show made her mother laugh) at the same time as it was taboo to discuss it outside of the family. Her father, meanwhile, is gone for long periods for work and includes Kusano in some age-inappropriate activities and conversations when he is home. These circumstances play a large role in Kusano's discovery of a feeling of power in making others laugh, and Pretty Beast skillfully interweaves these various threads together and mixes storytelling with dashes of stand-up in recounting that journey towards comedy-as-superpower. Kusano's jokes are sharp, her impersonations, especially of family members, funny and immersive, and her embodiment of her inner guilt and insecurity as a kind of zombie-like figure effective. Ultimately, Kusano's energetically uproarious story is one of courage, persistence, and self-determination. You don't have to be a comedian, or pretty, to find Pretty Beast relatable; what is important, as Kusano reminds us, is that, whether we admit it or not, all of us are fucked up.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards