Deb Margolin approaches the stage with deliberate movements and looks into the eyes of the audience with the ease of someone comfortable with their own story and on a mission to share. A series of monologues, the opening pieces relay the two basic elements that form the crux of her story-line: a maternal sense of caring, and the specter of death always present whether ominous or sudden, but there.
Margolin is known in this area for her fearless script Imagining Madoff performed several years ago at Theater J. Here, the stories build like layers, seemingly disconnected, but you can feel the tie that binds. In one case, she describes her son’s fixation with death. As she reads a scientifically detailed story to him about the life of deer, we all become a bit drowsy and hope that he does, too. In another beat, she stands and listens to a song, and through her attentiveness, actually guides us to stop fidgeting and really listen, too, for a sweet unexpected exercise in mindfulness.
Margolin brings you into the moment with an intense immediacy. Her adept use of language and tone help shift the scene to signify who’s speaking and relays their range of emotional reactions. She’s not trying to become the characters but instead, provides hints of their sense of being, specifically their needs, and her urgent, fervent desire to help, while aware that her efforts are futile. But that doesn’t stop her from acknowledging the need and at least making the effort.
We talk with Deb Margolin on writing from her personal life
8 Stops ruminates on the tiny moments in between the big life and death markers that we’ll all experience. She recites her cornerstone concept about the “grief of endless compassion” like a well-worn mantra, and moves with agility between gulfs of emotions.
closes July 31, 2016
Details and tickets
With all of her skill, the performance is an acquired taste that can leave you waiting for something more significant to happen. Still, thanks to her talent and genuine care, she helps us slow down and appreciate the wonder of the moments ticking by. And whether they’re spent comforting a child, listening to her son’s fears and phobias about death, getting through a bout of cancer, or just being there to witness her son’s aloneness, there’s a value and grace to that. That’s what happens in the signature piece at the end of the show where she shares a subway ride with a chatty little fellow who doesn’t even realize, but soon will, how alone he is.
Bear witness – That’s about all we can do, as full and compassionate human beings, and it actually brings to mind the daily signature sign off for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
8 Stops is a testament from one performing artist trying to do just that. Production designers for lighting and set Andrew Dodge and William T. Fleming highlight the moments onstage with strategically placed furniture and deliver a nice touch when lamps strewn along the back wall amidst sundry garage items start to glow warmly at the end.
Peeking into the mind and heart of a playwright is always a thrill, and the modest Unexpected Stage Company provides such an opportunity with this solo performance. The company is “dedicated to honoring the intricacies and intimacies of the complete human experience and to that end, seeks to unite people, places and storytelling in order to explore interconnection.” I enjoyed Romeo and Juliet—Love Knows No Age last year, and you might remember the buzz about Candy and Dorothy that caught attention as Helen Hayes recommended, all from this relatively new company.
Celebrating its seventh season, Unexpected Stage continues to deliver on its commitment to reflect the heart of human experience, and Deb Margolin does so with abundance in 8 Stops.
8 Stops . Written and Performed by Deb Margolin . Director: Jay Wahl . Sound design: Christopher Mark Colucci . Set Design: William T. Fleming . Lighting: Andrew Dodge. Stage Manager: Brianna Capps. Produced by Unexpected Stage Company . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.
Deborah Margolin says
Ms. Jackson, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and kind attention to my work. I’m almost a year late telling you this, but I owe much gratitude to you nonetheless for your willingness to think with me about this piece. Your remarks about a calling to presentness were reminders to me of my mission as an actor and writer.
I always write to critics, no matter their feelings about the work, because I think criticism serves both artist and the public best when it is a conversation.