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Lauren Weedman’s “No, You Shut Up,” at the Lodge

When a handsome widower tells Lauren Weedman that her stories aren’t ‘funny, they’re sad’, she lets her guard down for the first time and starts to fall in love. It’s a telling moment for this girl who constantly cracks jokes, always hoping to be taken seriously. But pirouetting between comedy and tragedy is the sweet spot for the hilarious Ms. Weedman, best know from The Daily Show, and Hung, who is, as she often reminds us, a lonely adoptee is search of a family.

As Jonathan Frantzen quipped, “inauthentic people are obsessed with authenticity.”

Ms. Weedman’s own desperate drive to be part of a ‘real’ family, no matter how awkward orunnatural, is the central conceit of ‘No, You Shut Up’, Ms. Weedman’s side-splittingly funny solo show. We follow a neurotic, bitter, and newly divorced Ms. Weedman as she returns to her adoptive family, quickly falling for a single father and widower (David). The lengths she’ll go to insert herself into David’s grieving family (or any family, really) are by turns hilarious, humiliating, and stingingly resonant. It’s a modern tale for the modern family. Along the way she channels a hilarious cast of characters; her marvelously horrific adoptive mother, a needy and theatrical lesbian foster mother, a gay foster child, sullen and ludicrously naïve 14 year olds, the emotionally fragile tattoo artist- each carefully and articulately rendered.

With a simple turn of the head, droop of the shoulders, or curl of the lip, Ms. Weedman brings her cast to life. She knows and loves these people, and never delves into caricature or cliché, and, with few exceptions, never patronizes. This masterful skill should be no surprise, as Ms. Weedman is something of a solo performance expert (‘No You Shut Up’ is her sixth solo show). Though she’s been performing this piece for four years, it never felt stale, robotic, or routine. Rather, it has an invigorating vitality and a sense of danger.

Within seconds she had the whole audience roaring. She does this not through her material, which is fairly rote and ends on perhaps too nice a note for her piercing and astringent style, but through the personal lens. By simply reacting to the world around her, she makes us complicit confidantes in her humiliating adventures. Her characters are perfect foils for her frantic, furious, and self-deprecating personality. Ms. Weedman wonderfully merges Robin Williams’ mania with Margaret Cho’s vivid characterizations (see: unflinching mimicry of mothers). To clone Ms. Weedman, you’d have to combine a pathological need for attention, clever insight, a dose of rage, and pitch-perfectcomedic technique.

The direction by Jeff Weatherford kept the pacing quick and the transitions short, balancing sculpted action with vivid improvisation. It’s a balance otherdirectors would do well to imitate. Yet one of the most inspired turns was the reversal: Ms Weedman, acting as a Midwestern adoption agent, asks Lauren Weedman about her marital status, and then tries (and increasingly fails) to politely listen while ‘Lauren’ rants, finally screaming out ‘You’re single!’. It was an inspired turn I would like to have seen more of in the show.

All due credit to Tanya Taylor Rubenstein for bringing Ms. Weedman to the Lodge as part of her solo show series (for more info, visit Projectlifestories.org).

 

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