by Margret Echeverria
If I met Laura Irene Young at a cocktail party, I would like her quite a bit and enjoy her story telling. Her one-woman show, now playing at 36th Street Theatre, WHEN JESUS DIVORCED ME is a sort of tale told that endears the narrator to our hearts. However, the show does not take much risk nor present enough vulnerability to create a feeling of anything more than having met a lovely new acquaintance, who went through a rough period, but she does not yet trust us enough to tell us the whole story. I needed more grit and less gloss here.
Young has wit and writes clever lyrics over simple melodies recycled throughout the show to poke fun at her pain and the abhorrent behavior of her ex-husband. She is also a Midwestern beauty; a redhead with curvy figure, a warm open smile and I just know she gives great hugs if you can get that close to her. She tells the love story from the beginning when she met a fellow actor at summer stock, crushed on him hard, but kept him in the friend zone until she went back to school in the fall. She never really tells us why she didn’t jump him right away and we also never learn what made her go for it later. Was there a guy from the past who made it hard to love again? Did she listen to and then ignore a voice in her head? The predictive gut feeling she does share with us is rather ambiguous. She tells us her mother read his palm once. That bit was kind of interesting and it does circle back later.
The proposal was gauche, the marriage quickly followed, the penguin who attended the wedding was fantastic and the divorce comes before the top tier of the cake is even cold in the freezer. The facts are juicy, but not all the fruit on the tree is squeezed. A working actor is a rare find in our world. Who cares if the good pay is for playing Jesus at a Christian theme park? Who would guess that he would break his vows for the Mary Magdalene thespian within five months of the nuptials?? Historically, the actual Mary Magdelene was not a whore despite what Pope Gregory would have us believe . . . oh, never mind. Young barely touches on her own religious conditioning going into her marriage and her subsequent spiritual journey while she healed her broken heart. She looks at us earnestly when she explains that her faith had her doubt her
worthiness as a woman and a wife. Yes, and . . . ?
What this show needs is a little more development. I wanted to be taken deep into her darkest moments and be let in on the secret to her contentment now. I want more truth, less shine.
Sets by Natalie Rose Mabry, lighting by Jen Leno, sound by Shannon Knapp, technical direction by Juliette Louste and stage management by Erika Cuenca.
Through November 12. 36th Street Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor. Get tickets here. Run time, 90 minutes.