Decoding the Tablecloth

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Conceived by: Gabriela Kohen and Connie Grappo
Directed by: Connie Grappo
Performed by: Gabriela Kohen
Running time: One hour

Gabriela Kohen is not the first actor to display a versatile range in a showy one-person autobiography. The subject, as is standard for these kinds of vehicles, is her confusing bicultural upbringing: Kohen, the descendent of Polish Holocaust survivors, was born in Argentina then moved to Brooklyn. But despite the familiar formula, Kohen transcends standard mimicry and identity politics. Short confessional snapshots of her Polish grandmother, abusive macho father and Latino-Jewish relations culminate in a loving yet unflinching family portrait. Rather than passively gawking at Kohen's astonishing subtlety of gesture, expression and accent (demarcating Polish, Yiddish, American and Spanish roots in varying permutations and degrees), the audience feels involved in the narrative. And if the rare thread or family member gets lost in the dazzling pattern (the program identifies more than twenty characters), perhaps that's just the price of an extraordinarily efficient and moving hour of entertainment. — Boris Kachka

Where: Paul Sharpe Contemporary Art
When: Fri, Aug 13 at 5 p.m.; Sat, Aug 14 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sun, Aug 15 at 6:15 p.m.; Tue, Aug 17 at 9 p.m.; Sun, Aug 22 at 8:45 p.m.; Mon, Aug23 at 5 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.

Published August 16, 2004