Broken Bone Bathtub
A show titled, "Broken Bone Bathtub" conjures a whole spectrum of images, and I certainly got the best of them when I viewed this inspired, intimate project by Siobhan O'Loughlin, which is described as, "an award-winning, immersive, one-woman play set inside a bathtub in an actual bathroom.
After a serious bike accident, a young woman musters up the courage to ask for help and share her story." BBB is currently taking place in different homes throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
With a friend in tow, we found our way to an old Astoria neighborhood and climbed the outside wooden staircase of an old one-family house, the type always portrayed in movies as the apartment above the garage, inhabited by the forty-year-old son who never left home.
The watchdog next door barked like crazy at our imposition and ignited an immersive vibe even before we reached the door. We were then greeted by the host of this particular performance (the show plays in various people's homes), a bright-eyed and tattooed young woman who welcomed us and another arriving couple, into her beautiful living room, replete with yummy hospitality all laid out, party-style.
We all made small talk and were assured the bathroom prep was almost complete. Note: most small apartments don't have two bathrooms, so think ahead.
I had heard, but never fully realized, that the BBB audience was to be made up of only four to eight people and, just as I had a momentary lapse into that inner panic of, "Gee, I hope I don't get dragged onstage," we four were ushered into the candlelit bathroom, the type of ossified, partially caulked New York appliances that haven't changed (or been changed) in at least 30 years.
Ok, I'm burying the lead. There was a luminous young woman with blowsy brown hair and a face with the better parts of Sheryl Crow, in the tub. Naked. Well, not completely naked. She was surrounded by a fairly dense cover of bubbles, and her left arm, dangling outside of the tub, was wrapped in a brightly decorated cast up to her mid-forearm. Broken bone: check. Bathtub: check.
What followed was an interactive stream of consciousness, a running narrative parceling out the gradual details of O'Loughlin's actual bike accident that severely injured her hand, leading to her friends helping her with daily body regimental chores we all take for granted; and her survival responses seem to have mixed with her deeply poetical side, and fomented this, our honest and bonding five-way group discussion with a woman in a bathtub.
For example, we discussed the difference between jealousy and envy; who cries and who doesn't; who has ever bathed with another person (more than you'd think), all while she asked some of us to wash her back, shampoo her hair and hold her (good) hand.
And, as we serviced (stop it) our grateful bather, she wove for us her own yearnings and fantasies in poetry, spontaneous song and monologue, and dissected the deepest parts of her/our age-old struggle to luck into finding that special someone who is there for you, always there to pick you up if, and when, you fall.
I've found that the messages of good shows land with people when the artist asks one profound question, and not 20. What makes this show great, is that, even though the performance is a little over an hour, O'Loughlin is in no hurry to push us toward an answer, but seems sure enough of herself to let each performance yield its own conclusions to this same question.
I got a clear message that O'Loughlin is paying it forward to honor her support system who rallied in her time of need and granting us, in our ever closing windows of direct contact, to remember how to be there for the sake of another person. Some of us are open, some guarded, most are in between. Some of us ask for help; others don't know how.
Some of us have called our mothers in an emergency; others can only say, "it's complicated, I don't want to go into it." It's nothing less than a gift that O'Loughlin let us stop and see our own reflections in her bathwater.
"Broken Bone Bathtub" has had more than two hundred performances worldwide (O'Loughlin started the show in Japan, where the alternative arts culture knows a thing or two about all things voyeuristic). Catch these last, beautiful multi-Borough performances if you can (remember: an audience of four to eight!).
"Broken Bone Bathtub" runs through April 1 at assorted venues in Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens. For information or tickets, visit http://www.brokenbonebathtub.com/