Everyone goes through life with a constant of symphony of worries, hopes, fears, memories, and dreams running through our minds at all times. Inner Voices, a new production presented by Primary Stages at 59E59 Theatres, brings that internal monologue to the forefront. The two one-act pieces are solo musicals, which Primary Stages calls “new genre of theater that unites the spoken monologue with a tapestry of lyrics and music.”
Mosaic, written by Cheri Steinkellner & Georgia Stitt, the first piece of the night, is audacious in its normality. Ruth (Heidi Blickenstaff) sits at her laptop in pajamas, flipping through photos, music, webcam, Google, etc. which are all projected on the back wall for the audience to see. In this utterly unremarkable setting, Ruth gradually reveals why she is unable to sleep this night. We first learn that she is a singer/songwriter, a one-hit wonder who can’t seem to pull out another great song. Then that she is pregnant. Finally, that Ruth has Hodgkin’s Lyphoma. These are not presented as surprising “gotcha moments” to the audience, but rather quiet revelations from someone who is struggling to cope with this combination of events. Mosaic is subtle; in the hands of a less talented performer, it could be downright dull. But Blickenstaff is profoundly engaging, both authentically relateable and dramatically compelling.
Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle, on the other hand, is anything but quotidien. It is entirely focused around Whida Peru (Judith Blazer), a transsexual agoraphobic psychic medium celebrating her anniversary with deceased lover Juannie. Juannie, however, has decided that it’s time to move on from the ceramic clown urn Whida presents him as an anniversary gift. This posthumous breakup sends Whida into a wailing fury, a near-operatic profanity laced tirade about her man and her life. I found this piece much more difficult to get into. In stark contrast to the relatability of Ruth in Mosaic, Whida is garishly painted, elusively fast-talking, and dressed in a lace bodysuit for the entirety of the show. Despite these trappings though, Whida’s supernatural problems are remarkably down-to-earth. Though most of us will never know a Whida (or commune with the dead, for that matter), her pained outburst of loss is all too familiar.
Inner Voices explores an interesting development in musical theatre. Although one-person plays have gained the respect of the industry – Carrie Fischer achieved great success just this year with her one-woman show on Broadway – one-person musicals have yet to find their footing. Inner Voices helps show that this may actually the perfect medium for certain stories, driven by one character yet universal in their appeal.
Darcy Zacharias, CC ’10