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One-woman Intelligent Life succeeds on strength of star
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One-woman Intelligent Life succeeds on strength of star

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Balagan Theatre
Through August 29


Terri Weagant is not Lily Tomlin; she's her own exuberant, talented self. Her talents are on full display in a virtuoso performance of Jane Wagner's one-woman show, originally written for her partner, Lily Tomlin. Weagant takes on an exhausting, over-two-hour script where she has to play upwards of eight other people, plus Trudy The Bag Lady, Wagner's main spokesperson.

The script has been around for about 20 years now, and is a funny and sometimes sad reflection on modern life and our attempts to understand it and explain it to others. Trudy the Bag Lady has "space chums" that visit and to whom she is demonstrating what it means to be human. She had decided that losing her mind was possibly one of the best things that happened to her, and describes some of the horrors she has gone through to get it back, like electro-shock therapy. She begins the play by telling you that she is standing at the corner of "Walk" and "Don't Walk," and away we go.

Terri Weagant, as Trudy, pulls a most magical cart onto the stage area that the actress designed herself for this production. It has an awning, mirrors, a relaxation area, and room for all her stuff. She has a desk area for her Post-it notes, which she keeps all her knowledge written down on. Trudy has time shifts and can see into people's lives when she wears her umbrella hat - her own invention.

Her umbrella hat shows her Agnes, a young teenager full of rage and a complicated desire to be seen, loved and accepted as she is. She's been abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandparents, who can barely understand her, though they do their best to love her. Trudy also shows us the mother and her friends, and the story weaves together slowly as the script progresses. You may feel that it takes the script too long to get there. It is a fairly long two hours and about 20 minutes, and in the Balagan "basement," that might feel like quite a long time.

However, Weagant's energetic inhabitance of her characters has her jumping all over the stage area, neatly changing a voice or a gesture to show a different person is speaking. The trick to doing the one-person show is one that Weagant has mastered. And this range of characters, from young to old, challenges anyone taking on this project.

The audience was appreciative of her efforts, giving her a standing ovation for her exertions. There are many funny moments in the play, but another challenge is in giving the dramatic moments their due, which Weagant strongly manages as the story shifts from funny to sad. The end, might be a little too neatly wrapped up, but you try and explain a can of tomato soup and a picture of a can of tomato soup to a bunch of aliens to whom both look exactly the same! Or try to explain what goose bumps are and how they are entirely not related to geese. Then spend some time with Trudy and see how she manages to describe these concepts so that the aliens can understand.

For more information, go to www.balagantheatre.org or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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