Two young performers, Stylist B. and Tabitha Brock-Bethune, recently staged a new work at the AllWays Lounge. Working alone, they were a small cast and crew, but Laugh Cry Scream & Shout was not a small show. They played 36 characters and covered a wide range of dilemmas, from heroin addiction to cancer. As grim as that sounds, the overall effect was not. The two displayed mischievous senses of humor and threw themselves into their parts with uncompromising zeal.
They said the play's purpose "is to empower," and the piece drew strong reactions from the audience, which often cheered.
There was no through-line. Instead, the presentation was a mosaic of monologues united by mood, and there were some enjoyable shared scenes and at times, characters returned unexpectedly. The show began with a series of monologues in which a woman experiences the evolution of her feelings for her mother from the age of 5 to 55. In this rocky trajectory, we never saw the mother, but we could imagine her reactions. Men in attendance may have had to resist an impulse to hide under the tables. Many vignettes addressed destructive male behavior, including domestic violence. And one young girl lamented and resented her absent father, who was in jail.
Generally, an evenhanded view prevailed, with a willingness to look at unpleasant facts squarely and without preaching. Monologues, however, often ended with a moral drawn from the episode. A woman struggling with the burdens of single motherhood wished she had asked the judge to give the kids to her ex, so he could see there's more to raising children than weekend outings. Ultimately, she decided her real problem was low self-esteem. "The pain will end when loving me begins," she said, and the audience shouted approval.
The script is too long, and some of the pieces should be cut, especially from the 16-scene first act. Lack of glitz can be a virtue, but Laugh Cry Scream & Shout would benefit from a bit more polish and direction. The show is a promising beginning for a team of local playwrights. In November, they will reprise the piece on a Norwegian Cruise Lines tour to Mexico. — Dalt Wonk