This is a one-person show in which Angela, a 44-year old woman, recounts the story of her divorce, from her husband’s abrupt announcement that he’s leaving her through her stages of coping — better and worse. The play itself is mainly cliché and the pleasure of watching it — and it is fun if you find yourself there — is thanks to Polly Draper’s fascinating style, backed up by the stunning set.
Polly Draper is worldly and vulnerable at the same time. She’s tall and slim and wears her clothes marvelously. She’s beautiful and not overdone. She’s wry and sad, amusing and just the OK side of desperate. She’s fun to be with, even in her miserable predicaments. The set matches her in an abstract way, vertical, sleek, askew but balanced.
We learn what happens to her and her inward responses through direct monolog as well as dramatic interchanges in which Miss Draper voices several parts, shifting among multiple accents and from male to female at a fast clip. Divorce is a rotten story: and whether you’ve gone through it or not, you know enough to recognize its ins-and-outs and phases.
She copes with her shaken sense of self-worth, her husband leaves her for a younger woman (the universal “bimbo”, of course). Her grown daughter is distant and no help. Her mother ranges from disinterested to accusatory. She herself ranges from self-righteous to self-accusatory (the play could have used more of Angela looking into herself and learning; what it provides of that is cursory.) The absent husband ranges from initial generosity — “You will want for nothing” — to war over money that brings her to near-poverty. She needs a job but, as a woman out of the job-market, and fiscally well taken care for many years, she’s lost her skills — an all-too common stuation. She thinks she wants him back but, when the opportunity actually arises, she doesn’t act. Now he wants to “return home”, now he’s on to yet another bimbo.
She hangs in there through it all, and moves to a better place. Had she also moved to a deeper self-knowledge, the play would have more heft. As it is, it’s something like a stand-up comic bit, one with some good laughs, thanks to Miss Draper’s timing in conveying her own rueful understanding of all that befalls her. It’s light fare, not really a play but a skit blown up to a play.
My Brilliant Divorce plays at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island through June 24.