Directed by Siri Scott
Produced by Irish Theatre of Chicago
At Chief O’ Neill’s Pub, Chicago
Terrific performance by Barbara Figgins saves one-person Irish play
Usually a one-person play is about a famous celebrity, a politician, or notable person, but in Geraldine Aron’s 2004 one woman show, My Brilliant Divorce, the woman, Angela, is a fictional, every-woman whose husband leaves her for another, younger woman. Angela is played by Barbara Figgins, a veteran Chicago character actor. Sporting a fine Irish brogue, but one that is easily understandable, Figgins plays the distressed woman with a rich sense of humor, irony, and pathos.
She fearlessly tells, in minute detail, of how she copes with suddenly losing her husband after decades of marriage. As she tells her story, she uses much Irish-based self deprecating humor, as well as blunt honesty, to paint the highs and lows of a devastated woman facing loneliness as her life patterns are jolted by the impending divorce. Struggling to adjust and enjoy life on her own, she has a hard time dealing with surly solicitors, “Lonely Hearts” dates, and help line counselors, while she continues to self-diagnose sicknesses. Does she just move on, or fight to get her man back?
This is an often funny, sometimes poignant, and ultimately over written personal story about a woman who is contradictory, frail and flawed – a person whose honesty diminishes our empathy despite a terrific and driven performance by Barbara Figgins. It’s the writing by Geraldine Aron which is so filled with minute details and irrelevant incidentals that it burns out its welcome. My Brilliant Divorce is about 30 minutes too long, as it runs a full 90 minutes. Angela’s story wears us out with too much minutia as we lose empathy for her plight. It’s like the person who has a terrific story to tell, but gets bogged down with too many side stories. After a while, we lose interest with the main story because of all the irrelevant details.
Still, there is much to admire with Barbara Figgins’s performance. Her sheer command of the complex show which has her easily morphing into many characters, reaching deep emotions, as well as nailing spot-on comic bits made me admire her stage craft and acting skills. Her tour de force performance makes the overwritten material work. Fans of one-person shows (like me) will find much to admire in My Brilliant Divorce.
At Chief O’Neill’s Pub, 3471 N. Elston, Chicago, IL