There are some things that a sketch can do that a one-act play can certainly do better, and I was delighted on Friday night to be introduced to the work of Baindu Kalokoh, whose biting and witty “Corporatesthenics” obviously demonstrates that she not only knows the difference between the two forms but can exploit the one act for all it’s worth to make her point.
As part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival at Theatre 80 St. Marks, Corporatesthentics introduces us to fitness instructor Candy Dandy, a high-energy beam of light that shines brilliantly on the dark underside of corporate life as navigated by African American women. Using the convention of a television broadcast, and playing the role of Candy herself, Kalokoh high-steps us through the denigration and frustration of the corporate experience by exhorting the audience to learn how to fake-smile through it all while seeking out mentors who “look like you” and simply knowing that others, like Candy, have been through it all before.
Particularly well-observed is a sequence where Candy walks the audience through a corporate evaluation process. An employee who has been given exemplary report cards for over a decade is suddenly found lacking due to nothing more than a desire for her employers to kick her to the proverbial curb. Though the rest of the work has some funny moments that hit home, involving wigs and hula hoops, parts of the play show that Kalokoh knows her corporate stuff first hand, and this is where she truly shines. These are the moments that really elevate the material above mere sketch comedy to the place where the audience can really relate, and have something to think about on the way home.
“Corporatesthenics” ran for only one performance as part of the festival, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from the talented and fearless Kalokoh. Both as a playwright and as a performer.s