Tuesday, July 31, 2018

“Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” doesn’t know where to go

Lauren Weedman (Chris Bennion)
Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
ACT Theatre
Through August 12, 2018

Lauren Weedman used to live in Seattle and developed a lot of her theatrical skills and instincts here before moving on to more national recognition of her unique talents. She’s a naturally funny person (there are many aspects of comedy that just can’t be taught, since a lot of timing is something innately understood). She also has bravely mined her own insecurities and foibles to create solo shows about aspects of her personality that also apply to lots of other people in the world.

Many solo performers use autobiographical history to create performances that make statements about the larger world. The most successful hone in on one or two particular events or aspects, develop a theme incorporating other characters, and weave together a whole story they perform all the roles within.

The last time Weedman had a long-run Seattle show was in 2007 with Bust, a play about her time volunteering at a Los Angeles women’s lock-up, where she tried to listen, but often talked so much that she put a foot in her mouth. It was a beautifully distilled performance where characters included a host of different incarcerated women and their jail-house visitors, and Weedman’s sometimes ham-handed interactions with them.

Intermingled with Weedman’s stints on television shows (like series regular on Looking), Weedman has developed solo shows that seem specific to the towns she performs in, such as People’s Republic of Portland (OR). Her current show at ACT Theatre is Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

At first blush, the title seems to refer to Seattle. But after seeing the performance, a mishmash of snippets of her autobiography – that she was an adoptee (and then found her bio family as an adult), that the father of her child cheated on her with a young babysitter – and being a guest star on an alter-ego’s television show (Tammy Lisa seems to be what Weedman imagines Weedman might have become if she stayed with her southern bio family), the title might be more broadly looked at as a statement of Weedman’s current inner discomfort. Likely similar to a lot of slightly aging actors in Hollywood, she seems not to know where she belongs.

The “entertainment industry” as practiced in Los Angeles and New York inhales and spits people out and deems them relevant – for a time – and then irrelevant, and women often reach a time where they are no long deemed sexy enough and then are simply tossed away as if they have no other use. That issue is the focus of an amazing viral internet clip with Amy Shumer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey (Last Fuckable Day:

In Seattle, we have a plethora of veteran (read “older”?) Seattle actresses who have had great careers on our stages but are rarely seen anymore. Some of them have been stalwart members of the actors’ union and some have left their union membership behind in order to get on any stage and still practice their craft. Often, the reasons are partly due to how many men’s roles there still are versus how many women’s in any given play or musical.

While Weedman has picked particular autobiographical elements for this outing, she seems not to have been able to look straight into the eye of her discomfort with where she is living – in life. Maybe doing so means to recognize that she  has to cope with the push into irrelevance of the industry she’s made her living in, and her struggle to push back. Plenty of comedic women, standups like Carol Liefer and Lisa Lampinelli, and actors like Jane Lynch and Lisa Kudrow, are seen less and less. Those who survive the “lull”-years, like Betty White and Joan Rivers, are still the exceptions.

There might be plenty of material that Weedman could develop about this discomfort. Maybe she will find a way in in another solo show. I’ll bet that many women her age (49), and younger and older, could find a lot of interest and humor in a show like that.

Instead, this time, we get some jokes, some songs, and a visit to a terrible (pretend) inner-cowgirl tv show hosted by Tammy Lisa, where Weedman is not only a reluctant visitor, but has no “talent” to offer an audience that the audience would like. Her story-focus on being a single mother after divorcing the husband who cheated on her with a babysitter feels like recycled news, or a pain she hasn’t yet been able to figure out.

Some folks will grab the humor and hang on. Some will appreciate the personal nature of the show. Others might see a theoretical pile of “stuff” on stage and feel like backing away slowly.

I truly appreciate Weedman and her work to help us understand ourselves by bravely revealing herself. This particular time, I don’t think she found a clear enough nugget to build a show around.

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