One-woman show at Playwrights Local howls at the moon
By Bob Abelman
Spoiler alert: Local actress Amy Schwabauer’s self-scribed one-woman show “This Is NOT About My Dead Dog,” receiving its world premiere production at Playwrights Local under Dale Heinen’s direction, is in fact about her dead dog.
It is also about her discovery of sex, her sordid affair with alcohol, and an assortment of tragicomic events that transpired during her childhood, adolescence and current state of young adulthood.
Three parts stream of consciousness confessional, two parts therapy and one part sketch comedy, these 75-minutes with Schwabauer are like watching a train wreck if that train contains a personal baggage car, a full-service bar car and a caboose comprised of mirrors that reflect our own faces as it passes us by on its precarious journey.
We’ve all had moments like those revealed by Schwabauer and see ourselves in her embarrassment and angst. But few of us are brave enough to put it on stage before an audience, bold or brilliant enough to perform it ourselves, and brazen enough to consider it theater.
“This is NOT About My Dead Dog” was developed in Playwrights Local’s new-work incubator in 2016, whose goal is to mold works-in-progress into pieces of performance art with the understanding that they are imperfect, incomplete and still evolving.
This production is in its Neanderthal stage of evolution. It shows positive signs of what it can become intellectually and artistically, but the work – in substance and in style – is still retaining its protruding brow and sloping forehead. As if it just discovered how to use tools, there is a cumbersome overreliance on props.
Raw (lots of stage-vomiting), redundant (every prop box gets stage-vomited into) and often random, too many of the musings that constitute Schwabauer’s collection of interpersonal misadventures are underdeveloped, lack direction and go nowhere.
There are times when the production, like the inebriated Schwabauer in many of the stories, merely howls at the moon.
And yet, her brutal honesty and all-encompassing investment in the telling of her tales, along with genuine moments of inspiration and creativity, make this production intriguing.
Schwabauer’s reenactments of being the center of attention at age 6, craving attention at age 11 and unable to get attention at age 18 are impressive pieces of performance. And she is so very charming and funny when her reactions to her own missteps channel Jack Black in terms of wide-eyed facial expressions and broad physicality.
The make-shift stage and very limited technical bells and whistles available in the back corner of the Waterloo Arts studio are used efficiently and effectively by lighting designer Stephanie Kahn, set designer Elaine Hullihen and sound designer James Kosmatka.
Like the portrait she paints of her relationships with men, Schwabauer’s one-woman show is often aimless and unsatisfying, but also quite infectious. CV
WHAT: “This Is NOT About My Dead Dog:
WHERE: Waterloo Arts, 397 E. 156th St., Cleveland
WHEN: Through Jan. 28
TICKETS & INFO: $10 – $15, call 216-302-8856 or go to playwrightslocal.org
Bob Abelman covers theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman3.
Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on Jan. 16, 2016.
Lead image: Amy Schwabauer. Photo | Dale Heinen