MAKING THE PLUNGE Griffin talks to Mary Ella.
Kevin Broccoli, the writer and directorial ringmaster, announced before the performance that we were going to see not a play, but rather an experiment. Which is not to say that You Might Not Be Crazy is not playful. Some of these dozen solo vignettes are outright funny, and the rest have at least a moment or two of eye-rolling recognition of how ridiculous the human condition can be.
Initially at Perishable Theatre and this weekend at the Artists' Exchange, audiences take their seats before a semicircle of actors in folding chairs. The center seat is reserved for a pile of throw pillows and a little-girl plastic tiara, as though a therapy group is meeting. Broccoli comes out and briefly introduces and names each monologue or performance piece, a self-described curator of the Crazy Museum. Characters range from a precocious third-grader to a grieving grown-up.
Perhaps that last one should be detailed first, because its unsentimental handling shows how the best of these pieces balance emotional content so well. In "The Man Who Didn't like Clothes," Andy Morris is a guy coping with the death of his partner by putting on things that he wore and reflecting on the memories they bring. "Insanity is merely wearing a smile when you should be wearing a frown," he observes.
Another serious offering has Emily Lewis, slumped in a chair and chewing gum, explaining to a son why she chose his father. In a Southern accent, the divorced woman says that she selected him more or less "like a TV dinner," pretty much for convenience. The whole monologue isn't that flippant, as she expresses regret that the boy "only knew the drinker, never knew the dad."
Vanessa Gilbert's character writes a letter to her father, who is grieving over the death of her mother. Interestingly, and challengingly, she is asking him to not write about the experience, which he is likely to do as he has previously authored other books. "There was no art in those months, no catharsis, no beauty," she insists. The challenging part here is to not have her come across as blatantly, insensitively intrusive and self-centered. The piece succeeds in leaving that judgment up to us.
Bob Colonna skillfully handles a similar attitude adjustment, one even more psychologically astute, as he writes a letter to a certifiably crazy father, in a mental institution, who made his childhood miserable. This is a wonderful juggling act of rage and sympathy, and the two elements aren't what you might anticipate. The brief monologue by Phil Goldman is a matching piece, as the character makes a succinct case to "love a man who has broken his word and learned his lesson from that."
An adult playing a child is always visually entertaining, and sometimes the enthusiastic innocence lets other interesting stuff hang on for the ride. Eric Desnoyers's third-grader is casting his class production of Aladdin, and he is going to be the genie because "I'm really good." Bonnie Griffin is very funny as a little girl in a swimsuit whose imaginary grown-up friend, Mary Ella, could give Lauren Bacall sophistication lessons.