As far as solo shows go, I discovered yesterday how much they can inspire self-reflection. Tonight’s experience was less about introspection and more about compassion: not only towards others, but towards oneself. In Died in a Trailer Park, Woke Up a Mermaid, actress Ariel Leaf tells the story of her own circuitous journey, from an abusive relationship to teenage homelessness to her uncomfortable initial courtship with her now-husband. Leaf performs as if she’d be more at ease telling you these stories over a pitcher of beer, with a sort of detachment that could either be on-stage stiffness or just plain honesty, without muddying the waters with unnecessary sentiment. Since Leaf is an interesting person and engaging to listen to, it’s easy to get over her lack of polish. After all, her stories are rough, dealing with pain, confusion, feeling lost and finding her way again.
Leaf (like many solo performers) isn’t clear about why she has decided to tell her stories, so Trailer Park/Mermaid (like many solo shows) had me intermittently wondering if its narrator is just narcissistic. What moves the show away from self-indulgence is Leaf’s degree of compassion for her parents, strangers in foreign countries, and most of all for herself: scars, awkward moments, and all. A strong, thick-skinned woman who still might inspire you to take a moment for a stranger in need, Leaf might not be the smoothest operator, but she’s quite a storyteller.
Sophie, Liz, and Melanie will be posting their thoughts throughout Fringe (August 1-11). Be sure to check back as we update with more shows!