Being the solo act is hard. Watching the solo act is, in some ways, harder. As I was leaving SFR on Sept. 17, on my way to the theater, I mentioned to one of my coworkers that I was on my way to see BURST.
"What's it about?" she asked.
"It's a one-woman show about bipolar disorder"—this is where said coworker lost interest—"family loss and Vietnam."
To say I had mixed expectations would only be slightly inaccurate. After all, no matter how many shows (one-person or otherwise) I see, something in me can't shake the memory of the scene in The Big Lebowski when Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi sit in the theater and discuss Little Larry Sellers while Bridges' landlord rolls around on stage in a leafy toga.
No leafy togas were present at Gray de Young's BURST. But committing approximately 90 minutes to looking at a black backdrop with black-garbed de Young and three pieces of equally black furniture as the only aesthetic might have been asking a bit much.
, an energetic, albeit
in San Francisco, suffers a
that leaves her unable to function, followed by a bout of severe
. She's diagnosed with
disorder, gives up her career and returns home to take some rest and recuperation in a haze of familial regularity and drug-regulated normality. Her brother's untimely death (but really, is there such a thing as a timely death except in Hollywood?) shocks her into action, and she travels to
for a meditative sojourn, which is interrupted when she finds enlightenment. Unfortunately, a history of mental illness means that she can't really be sure if she's enlightened or just suffering a bipolar mood swing, so she heads home again.
If you can make it past the fact that it's a
(or, for that matter, if you happen to like one-person shows),
is actually an ambitious production.
's multidisciplinary history shows in her stagecraft and minimalist
, and she makes good use of the space on the sparsely decorated stage. The show is rife with humor, as
's mood swings are portrayed with a nod toward slapstick but, unfortunately, those same mood swings also serve as a somber reminder. No matter how quirky and energetic
seems during her manic swings, the inescapable realization that she's being irresponsible and self-destructive weighs heavily on the levity, and the inevitable depressive turn after each episode is affective and uncomfortable.
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25
Armory for the Arts
1050 Old Pecos Trail