The human condition

Who’s to say what’s Crazy ?
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  November 23, 2009


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.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Theater , Education, Elementary and High School Education, Elementary Education,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MEN AT WORK  |  April 16, 2014
    The Pulitzer Prize Board, which likes to honor theatrical gems of Americana, may have been remiss in not nominating David Rabe’s 1984 ' Hurlyburly .'
  •   SEARCHING FOR CLUES  |  April 09, 2014
    A "girl detective" makes her  world premiere.
  •   ROSE-COLORED MEMORIES  |  April 09, 2014
    Incessant media accounts of horrific events can prompt compassion fatigue.
  •   MENTAL SHRAPNEL  |  April 02, 2014
    Brave or foolhardy? The Wilbury Theatre Group is presenting Sarah Kane’s controversial Blasted , a 1995 play that at the time was decried as juvenile, taken to the woodshed by critics, and flayed to shreds.
  •   A ROWDY ROMP  |  March 26, 2014
    In his time, Georges Feydeau was to theater what McDonald’s is to cuisine — cheap, easy to consume, and wildly popular.

 See all articles by: BILL RODRIGUEZ