This Is a Show About Women’s Issues. (Men, Take Note.)

New York-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Kaplan has some things to say, about women, and men, and genocide acceptance. Also: freedom, guns, and Christmas songs. Cindy of Arc performs at Intiman Theatre through Saturday. 


Lies and politics and Nazis, oh my! 

I had no idea what I was getting into with Cynthia Kaplan’s Cindy of Arc. Three strong possibilities emerged. It might be weird stand-up comedy with seriously cringey punchlines (given the stated topics which, yes, include Nazis); an energy-packed one-woman variety show (a la Lauren Weedman Blows); or an already dated please let this era be over, please? rumination on the horrors of the too-recent Dump Era. 

Ultimately, the thing that brought me in the door for Kaplan’s show, which is in Seattle for only a four-day run, was learning more about Kaplan herself. A prolific writer in both periodicals and story collections, she doesn’t make it all that hard to find out. What emerges, from her collections and recorded show clips, is a sharp and engaging author, a catchy song-writer, and a keen observer and opinionator (it’s a word). 

Having now seen the 70-minute Cindy Show, here’s what I can report: Cindy of Arc is like a special blend of the poppiest of Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon’s Prairie Home Invasion political satire cuts, folded into Lauren Weedman’s comedic musical commentary and storytelling, whipped with the stalwart feminist political devotion of The Raging Grannies.

There are a lot of comparisons, but it’s a unique result. And though it’s performed here in a traditional theatre setup, it’d feel more at home in a cabaret, drinks at the ready, singing along. (There is in fact a sing-along.) 

Cynthia Kaplan performs “Letter From Dr. Randall Berkhauser” in Cindy of Arc, with “the Mikes” (Michael Hunter, Mike Lunoe, and Mike Rosengarten). Photo by Joe Moore.

Through the format of a music-driven variety show, Cindy of Arc looks back at the remarkably consistent ways in which women have been minimized, men have been aggrandized, and systems have treated both states of affairs as the good and natural order of things. That sounds like a given, to anyone paying attention at least, and not exactly illuminating material. What Kaplan brings that makes this a real show, and a clever one, is her unexpected pairings: of catchy and horrifying, insightful and obvious, playful and deadly. And it’s the pattern she illustrates, rather than the individual fuck-up, that makes her show’s themes so sticky. 

Kaplan’s guitar-driven commentary is catchy throughout, but it lands most memorably on a couple of points. She spears the gratuitous commentary from an older male doctor — in which he writes in to counter a woman’s own experience of sex after childbirth, inserting his professional opinion in order to supersede her experiential one — via a blistering and brilliant song (“Letter From Dr. Randall Berkhauser”). And she reminds that over the ages, the only way women could prove themselves worthy of life was to allow themselves to (literally) be drowned.

(But yes, I swear it’s a comedy!) 

In those 70 minutes of catchy songs, tinged with cuss words and prop gags and Jewish Christmas humor, Kaplan doesn’t just blurt fuck the patriarchy. She reminds us, quite efficiently, that it’s always been a dumpster fire. 

Written and performed by Cynthia Kaplan. With music director Michael Hunter (keys), Mike Rosengarten (guitar), and Mike Lunoe (drums). Directed by Dani Davis. Projections by R. Sikoryak (content) and Tristan DiVincenzo (design). 

Cindy of Arc runs through 11/4 at the Erickson Theatre in Seattle (Capitol Hill). Tickets ($45+) here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible. Financial accessibility note: Intiman makes free rush tickets available for every performance, starting an hour before show time; see info here.

Run time: 70 minutes, no intermission. Two performances (matinee and evening) on Saturday; evening showing includes post-show conversation with Rep. Pramila Jayapal. 

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of