Audible brings ‘Approval Junkie’ to Off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre before its release as an audio-play

Prior to the digital release of a live recording of the show on the Audible streaming platform in December, Faith Salie’s Approval Junkie is making its New York debut for a limited four-week engagement at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre, after COVID-19 caused its originally scheduled 2020 opening date to be postponed. Written and performed by the five-time Emmy winner and developed in collaboration with and directed by Amanda Watkins (Associate Producer of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, where it premiered), the one-woman stage adaptation is a condensed version of Salie’s autobiographical tome of the same name, first published in 2017, and also available on Audible as an unabridged (7-hour-and-14-minute) audio-book narrated by the author.

Faith Salie. Photo by Daniel Rader.

From that background alone, you already get the idea that this is a person who can’t get enough of the spotlight and craves attention and validation – often to an unhealthy degree. Alone on a mostly bare stage, set with just an occasional seat (scenic design by Jack Magaw), Salie, wearing a slim black one-piece outfit and beige heels (costume by Ivan Ingermann), recounts in direct address to the audience a series of very personal episodic recollections from her life and career that reveal her desperate need for approval, and the takeaways she got from it, via this public self-analysis. She is supported throughout by a wall of background projections (designed by Alex Basco Koch), intense lighting (by Amanda Zieve), and voice-overs (sound by Brandon Bush) that represent the real-life experiences, emotions, and people she references.

Faith Salie. Photo by Daniel Rader.

Touting her accomplishments (winner of a high-school beauty pageant, straight-A student, Rhodes Scholar, regular panelist on NPR’s weekly current-events quiz-show Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!, contributor to CBS Sunday Morning, mother of a kind and generous young son) and good deeds (taking her 104-year-old friend Ruth to vote), the driven over-achieving media personality also reveals her struggles with anorexia, her failed first marriage to a “wasband” who wanted her to undergo an exorcism (she did, in a catharic Yoga retreat), her desire to select the perfect dress for her divorce from him (he didn’t even look at her; he was already dating a ten-year-younger fitness model), a problematic interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, the vicious hate mail she’s received, pushing her four-year-old boy to compete for admission to an elite school, and more misfires and flaws that taught her to look to herself for the respect and acceptance she needs.

Yet Salie’s performance often feels slick and over-polished, as she moves faultlessly through the words she recites, looks into the eyes of the audience, shakes her head through every line she delivers, flexes her well-toned arms, laughs when she wants us to laugh, feigns sadness when she wants our sympathy, and generally still seeks applause for the achievement of bringing her story to the Off-Broadway stage. The monologue concludes with her words of wisdom from lessons learned, to “care a lot about winning your own approval.” It’s a motivational talk and a study in psychology as much as a play, which might work better as a self-help book or digital stream than it did for me in the theater.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without intermission.

Approval Junkie plays through Sunday, December 12, 2021, at Audible Theater’s Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, NYC. For tickets, priced at $46-56, go online. Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations is required for all employees and audiences at the theater. Those under the age of 12 or with medical documentation who are approved for a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition that prohibits them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine should contact the box office for more information. Mask-wearing indoors at the theater is also required for all audience members and staff.


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