She was on her way to an annual Christmas day party and never made it. The news of her murder shook all who knew Tricia McCauley as a beloved actress, a precious yoga instructor, a fellow student, treasured family member, or special friend. With her play, Living and Dying with Tricia McCauley, Deborah Randall shares the unique bond she had with Tricia over 20+ years sharing insight about their friendship, Tricia’s smile, her eyes, her infectious laugh, charismatic presence, and her amazing spirit which touched the lives of so many.
McCauley had a significant impact on Randall’s early theater work and her spirit has genuinely touched her every production for Venus Theatre. They “engaged each other’s imaginations.” In Living and Dying with Tricia McCauley, she shows how McCauley was a guiding force: she helped Randall develop her concepts, directing and producing, helped her dig deeper to explore untapped emotions and bring everything to the surface. She was, as Randall shows in her performance, translucent. Randall’s cameras (including real ones before the ubiquitous use of cellphones) captured Tricia’s moods, poses, expressions to no end. Until the end.
The piece shows how McCauley’s work was constantly growing. Already an acclaimed actress, often with the Washington Theatre Guild, she practiced the chakras of life through yoga, they studied the teachings of Caroline Myss together, and McCauley obtained a hard-earned master’s degree in herbal studies. Thanks to Randall we see footage of her graduation speech and can’t get enough watching her, hearing and laughing with her, thankful to have had her on this side of life as long as we did. Painful for those who were touched by her, yes, but still it’s cathartic to finally be able to say goodbye, and inspiring for those who never knew her.
Randall is clearly working through severe loss and the pain can be felt throughout the show mixed with hilarity at their antics together and laughter. Without their incredible friendship and McCauley ’s influence, Randall admits, she would not be the performer she is today.
Living and Dying with Tricia McCauley
closes October 21, 2018
Details and tickets
McCauley was at peace with herself, felt at one with the universe and loved everything in it as a treasured soul, Randall assures us. Perhaps she reached out to help a stranger, as she would her struggling plants, her “friends” growing through concrete slabs, or one of her many yoga students trying a posture. Only this time she would be snatched and pulled into hell, brutalized by a vagrant.
Randall doesn’t go into all that—the wretched details are covered in the murder trial. Instead, she focusses on how she is picking up the pieces of her own life, her own living and dying, trying to recover in the aftermath of this loss that nearly capsized her with grief, plummeting her into post traumatic reminisces of her own.
That’s what theater does for us and with us, she recounts. We tell stories so we can keep going. All along, there’s a brightly lit door that she approaches apprehensively throughout the monologue, and then retreats, and tries again, until she has the strength and courage to barrel through it at the very end.
Music sets the decade with Pat Benatar blasting—“We are young” and playing an actual turntable, needle and all, reflections of their pre-digital connection. And Randall flicks out some strumming on her bass guitar with a recording device that repeats her messages and sounds of fury in a loop, a reminder of how our minds obsess over unshakable memories over and over. The sound design gets special kudos for handling that one.
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Lighting by Kristin Thompson reflects all the moods from gentle reflections to fits of rage. Set design by Amy Rhodes has a chair raised on a crescent shaped set for a nicely rounded touch. The stones cresting along the edge decorated by calligraphy artist Sammy Little, have names of murdered friends of Randall’s, a chilling reminder of the pervasive horror that could befall any one at any time.
No doubt other families are creating tributes for the latest heart-wrenching fatalities; we know that last week, Wendy Martinez was murdered, at 8pm, while jogging at P Street and 11th Street NW. The deaths of so many other innocents don’t even make it onto the nightly news.
How, their families must be asking, do we go on when a beloved part of our life has been taken away? Randall tell us how she has done it – a day, at a time, with journal entries with Tricia an ever presence, speaking to her, nudging her, even like a kitten curled up inside of her.
A part of Randall died Christmas day 2016. The inconsolable pain of the loss still emerges in quiet spasms interspersed with howls of grief. But, Randall shows that the constant and healing effects of our loved ones are still with us, no matter how horrifically they were snatched away. And since we’re still here, we can honor their spirits and legacy and walk through that door into the rest of our lives.
Living and Dying with Tricia McCauley . Written and Performed by Deborah Randall . Set designer— Amy Rhodes . Board Operator— Krishaun Walker . Lighting Design— Kristin Thompson . Produced by Venus Theatre . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.