Not Your Granny’s Revolution is seven short monologues by five graduates of a solo performance workshop, conducted by the formidable monologist Laura Zam. Two of the performers are excellent; the other three need work but no one was painfully or embarrassingly bad, and the show ends up comfortably on the plus side.
Molly Kelly gave us what was clearly the most sophisticated presentation, a three-part presentation in which she is Susan, a woman of astounding, and hilarious insensitivity, and also Susan’s sister Shelly. Staying safely inside the territory of character, not caricature, Kelly has Susan spend the first two presentations trying to reconcile herself to her own childlessness and the envy she feels toward her sister. In the last presentation, Shelly quietly and emphatically deflates some of the impressions Susan left, but manages to give us a sense of forgiveness and redemption. It is deft work, funny and moving.
I enjoyed, as well, the work of Jennifer Howe, who also served as master of ceremonies. Howe told the story of three marriage proposals which she was, basically, too polite to turn down, with consequences both amusing (for us) and tragic (for her). Like Kelly, Howe doles out the information in her story slowly, and in the order and manner best designed for impact. She is most successful in narrative form; when she tries to take on other voices it is not convincing (a problem for everyone except Kelly) and she runs a danger of being condescending toward some of her characters. But on the whole, it is a fun monologue, and I appreciate her undertaking these difficulties (she avers that her story is mostly true) for our entertainment.
The other three writers and performers (Tanya Bogoslovsky, Julie Hantman, and Deirdre Schwiesow) are less successful, in large part because their pieces are too broad. Whereas Kelly and Howe aim to give us just a slice of their lives (or the lives of their characters) the other three appear to be summarizing whole lives and drawing very broad conclusions from them. Because the monologues of Kelly and Howe are designed to lead to a specific point, they are more focused; and the characters – both the narrator and the secondary characters – are clearer and more vivid.
Partly because of theater economics, we are in an age of fine monologists now, and the example of Josh Kornbluth and Mike Daisey – and, locally, Zam and Josh Lefkowitz – suggests that the monologist who grabs something specific and runs with it gets a great show and a lot of engagements. Kelly and Howe are heading in that direction, and the other three (all of whom, judging from their bios, live lives which might provide plenty of material for monologues) are not too far behind.