By Tulis McCall
Let me tell you something about Lin Shaye This woman has worked. A lot. Since 1975 when she had a small role in Hester Street, she has worked steadily in film and television and is still going strong. She studied with Uta Hagen, Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg and performed at Manhattan Theatre Club and Playwrights Horizons.
So, the question is, with such an enormous and impressive resume – how the heck did Ms. Shaye think it would be a swell idea to perform her one woman show, Tripping On Life , with her script in hand? Said script is not just in hand, Shaye reads extensively from it. The hook, or premise, or whatever you would like to call it is that this is a movie script. There are many action lines dotted throughout her reading as guides to what we need to visualize. We need to visualize the tale because Shaye herself is providing little in the way of a captivating performance.
The “story,” such as it is, is about her first marriage to Marshall Rubinoff back in 1968. It is a remarkable tale if only for the amount of drugs that Shaye lists as normal fare for the couple and the many people with whom they shared living situations. Those drugs alone might have put a person on the critical list in no time.
Shaye in her 20’s was a rebel, refusing guidance from her parents and instead choosing a life with the man she loved who she met in a college production of Bye Bye Birdie. They were hippies. Flower children. Dedicated to breezing through life and being stoned as much as possible. We meet the couple 5 hours after their wedding ceremony traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway, stoned of course. They are stopped by two cops into whose hearts they worm their way before continuing their road trip. We travel back and forth in time to their wedding, a confrontation with her father and finally to a fateful morning several years later.
All the while Shaye carries her script, shuffles from point A to point B and back, swears a lot (which seems to thrill the youngsters in the audience – an older woman tossing the F-Bomb around like a volleyball). While Shaye talks there are intermittent sound cues that feel unrelated to anything (the pre-show music is a bad example of drug rock) and there are projections of faux psychedelic oozing colors on the back wall that are not only unrelated to the story but upstage Shaye every time they appear.
All in all it is a misguided and jumbled evening. This is a story filled with good intentions, and we want to care about this guy she loved so much. But we never get a chance to make it to first base. The inserted photos in the program prove more compelling than the show.
Look – there is little that can be done by an actor carrying a script. This is Theatre 101 folks. Shame on anyone who thinks otherwise.
Tripping On Life Written and Performed by Lin Shaye, Directed by Robert Galinsky
Sound design by Lee Landey , and light art consultant Joshua White
Through October 8, 2023. Wednesday and Thursday at 7 PM; Friday and Saturday at 8 PM; matinees are Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. The running time is 75 minutes with no intermission. Theater Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street, NYC. theatrerow.org .
Learn more or get tickets at TrippingOnLifeThePlay.com