What if you could have a heart-to-heart with yourself thirty earlier younger? Thirty years older? What if you could finally ask the younger you just what the hell you were thinking on the verge of a major life mistake?
That’s the intriguing concept of Girl With Two Belly Buttons, written and directed by Jeryl Parade. The story follows Izzy (Suzanna Woodhead) who has found herself, at the age of 60, sick and alone. Side effects kick in from medication and she suddenly finds herself face to face with herself at the age of 30, (Kathryn Martin, distinguished as “Izabela”).
Izabella is taken aback that her fate is the worst imaginable – singledom. (She is pleased that her older self “looks pretty good for 60.”) While her older self points out that she her life is full of friends and loved ones, young Izabela is still perplexed at how she has ended up without a romantic companion. After all, her twenties have never left her wanting for lovers or human connection. How does it all go wrong?
In an attempt to connect the dots for her past self, Izzy walks her through a litany of failed relationships from 1975 through the present day, introducing us to a range of less than ideal boyfriends, spanning the gauntlet from an idealistic film student (Scott Duvall) to a corporate alpha male (Matthew Sutphin). In the process of trying on different personas and different relationships, Izabella slowly takes steady steps toward her own self-actualization, liberated from what others think she should make of her life – including herself.
The leads admirably capture one another’s quirks enough to enable you to easily imagine them on opposite ends of the same time spectrum of Izabella’s life. They are capably backed by a strong supporting cast of Mr. Wrongs, breathing empathy into what could have been a string of one-dimensional foils in the wrong hands.
Girl with Two Belly Buttons
Written and directed by Jeryl Parade
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One minor impediment for me were the sound effects, intended to serve as scene setters, which often ended up drowning out dialogue and distracting this reviewer. The stage settings make creative use of minimal dressing , with the audio clearly intended to help set the ambience of a café in New York or a museum in Paris, among other locales – the production should place more trust in the ability of the actors to set these scenes and the audience to go along with the flow.
Parade has found a gold mine in this high-concept material and the bittersweet (some might say cruel) passage of time it depicts. She has some fun with the technological revolution that has exploded over the past several decades (young Izabella is horrified by the notion of dating “on a computer”), but mostly stays focused on the personal nature of the protagonist’s evolution.
Who among us would be able to look ourselves in the eye thirty years younger without some pang of regret or shame for how things unfolded? Who hasn’t reconsidered what our dreams ought to be? As Girl with Two Belly Buttons hints, time may ravage a lot of things we hold dear, but simply enduring through the years can provide us with perspective and a sense of peace that is wasted on the exuberance of the young. It’s a lesson that we all learn, or should. With two belly buttons and a lot of heart, the show should resonate with a wide range of thoughtful audiences.