“Who here has been in love? Who here has had their heart broken?” These are among the questions that playwright / performer, Robyn Bishop- Marin directly asks all attendees in the audience of the classic Off-Broadway venue, SoHo Playhouse in downtown Manhattan. She asks these near the end of her presentation, but by then the audience is well accustomed to her directly engaging them, and indeed that is part of her and the show’s charm.
Akin to my most recent review of the One Woman Show, Off-Broadway, “Walking with Bubbles”, Ms. Bishop-Marin’s is a first-person narrative, sans the fourth wall, and is as honest a recollection as one could conjure of some primary traumatic events in her life; chiefly the abandonment of her husband, Leo after 32 years of marriage which seemingly had been “happy”, at least to her, and had produced healthy children and a fairly high middle class all American life style. An apparently hopeless romantic herself, she envisioned their union as idyllic as Maria and Captain von Trapp, although singing solo or as a madrigal did not enter their personal picture. No, “Every Mountain” that they were able to climb was merely their remaining together more than three decades, having kids, and seeing to it that they made love at least once a week.
Fifty two sexual encounters a year was an aspect of pride with her, not realizing that for Leo, and a few other issues for him, were insufficient to remain in the “connubial bliss” of 8.5 out of 10 rated sex life that she was convinced that they maintained, while he’d secretly assessed it considerably lower in numbers and value.
And so, Leo took off to take “a vacation from marriage”, which was incomprehensible to Robyn and caused a cardiac dysfunction in her that could have been a mortal wound indeed. The results of this unexpected cosmic monkey wrench thrown prompted this native of Normal, Illinois, (hence the title’s multiple meanings), now living in New York, and L.A. at different times, to rebuild her ego, self-esteem, livelihood, and life by taking up one challenge after another and employing the three ingredients:” courage, humility, and passion,” what, Mr. Harrison states in his Director’s Note: created “ a feast of empathy….and this is what Robyn Bishop- Marin has done.”
She does it with considerable humor and is greatly abetted in that department by the surprising and utterly unexpected appearances of her” former husband”, Leo, superbly portrayed by Malcom Stewart, a Broadway veteran who is easily recognized for his many roles including stabbing Frank Langella’s Dracula at the Martin Beck Theater years ago, and his many TV and film appearances, including thirty for Hallmark alone.
“A GIRL FAR FROM NORMAL” is playing its limited run through next week to July 22. The ticket price is most reasonable. Truly, anyone who knows what resilience is required to mend a broken heart can readily share with Robyn Bishop-Marin her journey and near, “Hollywood Ending” that she valiantly provides.
SOHO PLAYHOUSE, 15 Vandam St. NYC –Opened July 12th, with remaining performances July 15th,19th,20th,21st, and 22nd. All at 7:00 P.M. 212-691-1555 www.sohoplayhouse.com
Photo credit Credit – Darin Chumbley, PictureDLC.com