Lauren Weedman—a theater performer who parlayed a 15-minute piece at On the Boards into an off-Broadway show in 2001, a comic whose credits include Arrested Development and The Daily Show, an actor who was one of the best things about the HBO series Looking—could sleep onstage, and I'd be riveted. She is intense, and a spaz, and unbelievably funny.
Lauren Weedman Doesn't Live Here Anymore, her newest piece of writing brought to life at ACT, is a one-woman show described in press materials as a "Jungian fever dream" about heartbreak, betrayal, and being a mom who's also an artist. It features an alter ego Weedman has developed in previous works, a variety-show host named Tammy Lisa (which longtime fans know is the name Weedman was given when she was born, before she was adopted and her name was changed).
The premise: Lauren Weedman is on her way to perform as the "mystery guest" at Tammy Lisa's live TV show in Los Angeles. Tammy Lisa is a countrified singer with Southern roots. There is also a band, with a talkative bass player who wants to share the details of his dreams. There is a backstage handler, a ditsy LA type. There is Lucinda Williams, the famous rock/folk/country singer. Weedman plays all these characters, and more.
What she does with gesture and body language, and her gift for impersonation (her stone-faced Lucinda Williams is amazing), and her playwright's ear for dialogue, and her seemingly throwaway ad-libs that are so good they can't have been ad-libbed, and her energy and inexhaustibility and just plain old weirdness—on all these fronts, she is dazzling.
But frankly, the show has a couple problems. It is hard work running around a stage playing a bunch of different characters, but it can also be exhausting for the audience. Most of the characters (except Lucinda Williams) aren't wildly funny. Weedman playing herself is always funny, but she plays herself for only about 10 minutes of this show.
In the end, the show within the show, the elaborate plotting, and all the spoken details didn't seem to add up to much. Either the last scene of the show went over my head, or it was kind of trite, an easy cop-out.
If you are a longtime fan of Weedman's, you probably won't mind that she's still working out this material, because seeing her perform is a singular experience. But if you've never seen a Weedman show, this might not be the one to start with. The "Tammy Lisa" backstory/alter-ego stuff is crucial, but it's never made clear.
Weedman mentions in a Q&A printed in the program that her shows "evolve as I do. There's a lot of rewriting that happens that makes everybody nuts but I'm constantly finding new levels to things." So maybe in the second week of the run, Weedman (or director Allison Narver) will make some adjustments and everything will cohere in a new way.
Weedman also mentions in the program that "the time period I lived in Seattle, before the Hollywood bizarreness and the divorces and the child, was an incredible period in my life. My friends here and the city itself has become my 'back in the good old days.'"
On behalf of everyone (and all my quibbles aside): It's nice to have you back.