Review: "I Need a Hero" Asks Much More than Where All the Good Men Have Gone

I Need a Hero

Written and performed by Kayla Engeman

Presented by Manhattan Theatre Source and FRIGID New York in collaboration with Arts on Site and 721 Decatur Community Garden at UNDER St. Marks

94 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC (and via livestreaming)

March 23-25, 2023

Kayla Engeman
I Need a Hero makes it clear from the outset, as actor and comedian Kayla Engeman dances in parallel with herself as she appears in a 1998 home movie, that this solo show is firmly a multimedia affair. Aside from the humor in this temporal palimpsest, the juxtaposition of media such as this with more contemporary images, text messages, and video suggests how much our relationships to our own pasts have changed over the past couple of decades–no one today, for example, would even think to call a video taken on their phone a home movie. In I Need a Hero, Engeman takes a (mostly) humorous look at her own personal past in order to reach some conclusions about her present (including the very well taken recommendation to get a cat). I Need a Hero is currently part of the EstroGenius Festival, themed Ban(ned) Together in its twenty-second year of spotlighting "femme, non-binary, non-conforming, and trans womxn artists." EstroGenius 2023 features dance, comedy, a new play reading, multidisciplinary works, and, of course, solo shows (including The GynoKid, chosen from the 2023 FRIGID Festival to play EstroGenius: you can read our review from that earlier run here). In I Need a Hero, Engeman brings together singing, dancing, video, and storytelling for a solo show experience that sets itself apart.
Kayla Engeman
I Need a Hero makes cheeky use of introductory and interstitial video crawls, and while projected videos sometimes serve purely as a backdrop, at other times Engeman produces the illusion of interacting with them, as in one well-crafted nightmare sequence or when her onscreen cat appears to be enticed by onstage props. Over the course of the show, Engeman talks–or sings or dances–about the annoyances of moving back home after college, the impressively questionable things said by her male friends, the feeling of friends' lives moving on without her, the (very relatable to some of us) conflict of the idea of going out being more attractive than the reality, and more, including, significantly, a devastating personal loss. In addition to the show's verbally articulated takeaways, the dancing, costuming, and some of the dialogue emphasize the body-as-self/-self-as-body in interesting ways; and Engeman ultimately considers not only the value of pain but also the value of merely being heard. I Need a Hero is confidently funny and inventive while not afraid of weaving honesty and even vulnerability into its distinctive fabric.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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