By Stanford Friedman
You know the story of The Bacchae, right? How Dionysus drives the women of Thebes crazy? And how, when those frenzied women catch King Pentheus spying on them frolicking in the woods, they tear him limb from limb? Well, that Greek tragedy briefly flashed through my mind last Friday, being one of many guys sitting next to a constantly nodding and elbowing female companion while taking in Tulis McCall’s solo piece, All Aboard that has its second performance at the United Solo Festival October 2 at 9:00.
Tulis is crazy…like a fox, and her sly performance offers a frenzy of hard truths and hilarious proclamations, exposing the kind of secrets from inside the female psyche that wives and girlfriends share, but that men are seldom allowed to learn. It’s girl talk that every woman should hear. And men, willing to risk a bit of punishment, will find it engrossing as well.
At the heart of the matter is that age-old quandary of age and getting old. Tulis (who is the creator of TheFrontRowCenter.com, as well as the host of the monthly Monologues and Madness readings at the Cornelia Street Cafe) finds herself deep in the demographic known as Women of a Certain Age, which she defines as “somewhere between 40 and death.” The benefits and drawbacks of winding up in such a spot – predictable yet unknowable, unasked for, but better than the alternative – set her 40 minute piece spinning through time. A childhood trauma, the idiosyncrasies of a certain sex act, and a brutal face to face encounter with her mother’s antique-framed mirror punctuate a monologue that is, by turns, a jaunty language poem, a stand-up routine for the post-menopausal, a dartboard for the pains-in-the ass that men can no doubt be, and a heart-wrenching chronicle of regret.
Her complicated emotional battle ultimately becomes personified in a final war game that pits the thuggish duo of depression and self-doubt against the squeaky cheerleaders of joy and optimism (“I need help but won’t take it.” vs. “Who is better than you!”). If that’s not a Greek tragedy for the modern age, I don’t know what is.
All Aboard: A Woman Of A Certain Age Sticks Her Fingers Into The Light Socket Of The Universe And Invites You To Hold Hands – Written and Performed by Tulis McCall.
Presented by United Solo 2015. Anthony Mark Cruz, stage manager. Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St., 212-239-6200, http://unitedsolo.org/us/allaboard-2015. Remaining Performance: Friday, October 2nd at 9:00. Running Time: 40 minutes.