To Whom Should I Complain

To Whom Should I Complain starring Moira McAuliffe at New York's Theatre Row. Courtesy
To Whom Should I Complain starring Moira McAuliffe at New York's Theatre Row. Courtesy

NEW YORK – To Whom Should I Complain

Moira McAuliffe performed her solo comedy show To Whom Should I Complain as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row. You may recall Shakespeare’s character Isabella in Act 2, Scene 2 of his play Measure for Measure, a work sometimes characterized as a problem play that explores themes like justice, mercy, hypocrisy, and sexual morality.

Measure for Measure was fodder for McAuliffe’s brilliant comedy performance!

Dressed in a nun’s novice attire, McAuliffe introduced herself as a typical, perhaps slightly conventional, good Catholic. She played up the humor in stereotypes associated with this identity, such as guilt, repression, and the struggle to maintain virtue in a sinful world. She shared humorous anecdotes and observations about her experiences as a Catholic, poking fun at herself and what some individuals call “Catholic guilt culture.”

Shakespeare’s play was set in Vienna, where Duke Vincentio left the city, entrusting his trusted minister Angelo to govern in his absence. Angelo, on a power trip, absurdly enforces strict laws against immorality and condemns a young man named Claudio to death for impregnating his fiancée, Juliet, before their marriage. Here’s a synopsis of the entire tale.

Moira McAuliffe, starring in To Whom Should I Complain at New York's Theatre Row. Courtesy

Moira McAuliffe, starring in To Whom Should I Complain at New York’s Theatre Row. Courtesy

Claudio’s sister, Isabella, a nun in training, pleads with Angelo for her brother’s life in Act 2, Scene 2. Angelo presents himself as a moral authority but propositions Isabella, offering to spare her brother’s life in exchange for her virtue. Isabella is thus torn between her loyalty to her brother and her religious devotion.

Smoothly transitioning into Isabella’s character, McAuliffe highlighted similarities between herself and the character, such as a commitment to moral values or a tendency to find herself in awkward situations. The transitions were engaging and comedic, with embellished physical gestures and vocal inflections signaling a shift from Moira to Isabella. “To Whom Should I Complain” was driven by McAuliffe’s humorous spin on the characters’ words. She played with the language, adding comedic asides and modern references to keep the audience engaged and laughing.

Infusing her monologue with humor, wit, and charm, McAuliffe gave the characters a fresh perspective and made Shakespeare’s language more accessible and entertaining to a modern audience.

Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare. Public Domain

Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare. Public Domain

McAuliffe ingeniously explored themes of justice, mercy, and morality through a sophisticated and elegant comedic lens. She lampooned the seriousness of Shakespeare’s themes, finding humor in the absurdity of the situations Isabella faced and the moral dilemmas she confronted. She joked about the irony of a nun-in-training being asked to compromise her innocence to save her brother’s life or the ridiculousness of Angelo’s hypocrisy in enforcing strict moral laws while secretly engaging in immoral behavior himself.

With wit, charm, and comedic timing throughout the performance, McAuliffe kept the audience entertained. McAuliffe cleverly portrayed both herself and Shakepeare’s Isabella as she seamlessly and humorously transitioned between the two personae. Her body language, facial expressions, and sly comments were hilarious, keeping the audience laughing throughout a performance that earned her a well-earned extended ovation.

NEW YORK – To Whom Should I Complain

Written and performed by Moira McAuliffe

Directed By Emma Lea Hasselbach
Voice-Over Actor and Collaborator Kevin B. Jones

The 16th Annual United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row

410 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
For the calendar and tickets, click HERE.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Address Unknown at the Town Hall, The Moth ProjectThe Who’s TommyAftershocksWitchlandStalkerGrief Hotel,  The Notebook on BroadwayMy Beatnik Youth: A Solo RiffMy Mother Had Two Faces, and Before the Drugs Kick In.

To Whom Should I Complain


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