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Theater review: 'Macho Like Me' at the Coast Playhouse

January 20, 2011 | 11:31 am

Macho_like_me_2 With her somewhat squeaky voice and wind-up doll gestures, Helie Lee may not be your idea of a naturally prepossessing performer.

But the quality of charm is ineffable, and Lee possesses her fair share, as she proves in her one-woman show, “Macho Like Me,” at the Coast Playhouse.

A bestselling author and lecturer, Lee was burned out after a series of unsuccessful relationships.  Eager to understand the male animal a bit better, she donned drag and lived as a man for six-plus months.

A petite, pretty Korean woman, Lee may strike you as a highly unlikely candidate for that transition.  But she persevered in her experiment, hoping to confirm her suspicion that men have it easier than women from the cradle onward.  But her research yields just the opposite.

Besides being the basis of this solo show, the film of her experiences has been adapted into a full-length documentary, snippets of which play throughout Lee’s performance, which has been rigorously calibrated by director Sammie Wayne.  Riotous segments include Lee’s Old World parents gravely urging their daughter to find a husband before it is too late.  And footage of Lee’s ill-matched basketball game with guys twice her size will leave you howling.

A doctorate in sociology isn't necessary to deduce that Lee’s insights can be a bit predictable at intervals.  But on the whole, her quixotic tale succeeds not only as entertainment but as a poignant social document –- another stanchion on the bridge spanning that vast divide between the ever-embattled sexes.

--  F. Kathleen Foley

Macho Like Me,” Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.  8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Feb. 13. $30.  (800) 595-4849.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Helie Lee. Credit:  Eric Sueyoshi