SEATTLE REVIEW: Lauren Weedman Lives In The Messy Reality Of Heartbreak

Published on August 5, 2018 by   ·   No Comments

Hey Seattle friends: this show is still playing through August 12, so in case you are thinking of going I wanted to give you a very upfront spoiler warning as I’m going to talk about the whole show.  Maybe go see it first, and then head back here to see if what you thought lines up with what you’re reading here.  For the bulk of my audience who aren’t located anywhere near the Emerald City, I hope you enjoy this exploration of a thoughtful and poignant one woman show.  Either way, enjoy!  XOXO – Miss Jaye

Weedman02I used to watch the show Snapped! on Oxygen, and I was always confused by these women who thought they could get away with these super obvious murders of their husbands and boyfriends.  How did they ever think that they wouldn’t get caught?  There was often so little planning, so little rational thought.  And then I mailed the first rent check to my landlord after my husband left, and I understood.

My ex always took care of dropping off the rent; he knew where our landlord’s office was and rather than mail it, he would often just drive it over.  When he left, he assumed that I would also be moving and told me in his “goodbye letter” that he had give our notice…our notice, as if he had any right to that term anymore.  I texted him and told him that while he was free to choose where he wanted to live, he no longer had any say in where I would be living and I would be staying put thank you very much, and since he was moving out with less than 30 days notice I expected him to bring his half of next month’s rent back to this location and drop it off before the first of the month.  Which he did.

Weedman 04I was an emotional wreck at the time, but I took his check to my bank and deposited it, and got a check for the full amount.  I had brought envelopes and stamps in the car, and I was giving myself the “you are strong, you are a survivor!” pep talk as I drove to the post office about 10 pm on a Friday night.  With all the Destiny’s Child “Independent Woman” flair I could muster, I separated the cashier’s check from the receipt, placed the check into the envelope, placed a forever stamp in the upper right corner, and dropped the envelope into the box thinking, “You are going to be ok.”

That feeling lasted about 4 second…before I realized that I had dropped the envelope into the box with no address on it.  Just a blank envelope with a stamp.  It’s like I had forgotten how the how postal service thing worked.

A rational person would have just laughed at their mistake, and on Monday they would have eaten the fee to stop payment on the check and gotten a replacement.  But I wasn’t rational, and I had a plan.  I was convinced that if I could just get one of the overnight workers to open the box for me, I could grab the envelope out, address it, and send it on its way as if nothing happened.  After all, it would be right on top, and I would be able to describe the stamp.  How many letters without addresses could there be in there anyway?  So I drove into the lot, parked, and proceeded to bang on the door that used to give after hours service and now just reminds people that the postal service isn’t all that interested in any sort of service that is actually convenient or helpful.

I was a grown ass man banging on an employee door at the local post office after 10 pm on a Friday night, and I really believed that if I could just get someone, anyone, to answer that door, they would let me forage through the mail dropbox, I would correct my mistake, and things would be ok.  And oh, how desperately I needed them to be ok.  But the mistake I was really trying to fix had nothing to do with blank envelopes or lost rent checks.  It was the mistake of giving my heart to someone who didn’t know how to care for it, and not knowing how to care for his in return.

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Suddenly, all I felt was rage: pure, unfiltered, uncomplicated, white hot rage, and I knew without a single doubt that if my ex had walked into that post office right then, I would kill him.  In my mind I could see myself pushing him to the ground and just slamming his head into the concrete.  The emotions were so intense I actually felt my vision narrow and my head was light and I started to feel a little dizzy.  There was a tiny shred of rational thought that was like, “Bitch, this is too small of a town to be hanging out in a public place with that kind of rage – people run into people they don’t want to see all the time!  Go get yourself some Ben & Jerry’s and get your ass home until this passes!”  I did just that, and I’ve never felt that level of emotion ever again.  But I finally understood those women on Snapped!

Weedman 01Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a show about divorce, and it’s the kind of show that sneaks up on you – exactly the way that things tend to sneak up on you when you’re going through a divorce: the unexpected outbursts, the sudden realizations of changes to your routine that stir up all kinds of emotions, the memories of hurt or betrayal that surface at the most unexpected and inconvenient of times.  The random urge to murder your ex at the post office at 10 pm on a Friday; things like that.

This show features the suddenly intertwined stories of two women: Lauren Weedman and Tammy Lisa (all parts are played by Weedman, with offstage musical accompaniment from Ben London on guitar and Chris Monroe on drums).  The show opens with Lauren on her way to be a guest on a “hokey Hew-Haw-type show, talking to a friend about her upcoming divorce.  She talks about not being sure how to grapple with it, and says that she and her husband are just trying to be adults about it and not cause any problems for their young son; she says that she’s not sure what happened and used that typically vague language about having grown apart and gone different directions.  She’s calm during the whole conversation (which turns out to be an extremely long voicemail message – easier to maintain composure without another person to provide a counterpoint!) and keeps directing her focus on the gig.

This gig, it turns out, is less of a guest spot and more of an audition…as a replacement for the host of The Tammy Lisa Show, Tammy Lisa.  Where Lauren is calm and collected, Tammy Lisa is frenetic and energized, opening her show with witty audience banter interspersed between singing and dance breaks.  From the outset, we get a sense that Tammy Lisa is also having trouble in her marriage, and she’s also trying her best to keep it together…even as every moment of the show tests her patience.  From awkward moments with the band, letters from viewers with less than helpful suggestions, musical guest Lucinda Williams being, well, Lucinda Williams, and a “Tammy Lisa Clomper” who maybe be practicing some different kinds of moves with Tammy Lisa’s husband, Tammy Lisa dances her way through with an anxious smile and a cocktail never too far away.

Even the show seems to be set up to highlight the star’s marital problems, as she opens the show with Sylvia’s “Nobody.”

“Your nobody called today
and she hung up when I asked her name.

Well I wonder, does she think she’s being clever?

You say Nobody’s after you.
The fact is, what you say is true.

But I can love like Nobody can, even better.”

Live 02What’s interesting about that song, as opposed to any other song about infidelity or heartbreak that she could have chosen, Weedman chose to include a song where the woman being wronged doesn’t get angry with her cheating husband or walk out the door, but rather chooses to fight for her man.  And Tammy Lisa is fighting.  After all kinds of challenges and awkward moments, Tammy Lisa’s husband finally joins her on stage for a duet of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash’s “Jackson.”  The song is about a couple who “got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout” who are now finding themselves distanced from one another.  The husband claims he’s going to cause trouble and cheat, and the wife tells him to go ahead and try and she’ll see him when they run him out of town as a fool.  Another woman with a cheating husband, but she’s not setting his clothes on fire or calling her attorney.  She’s just trying to maintain, just as Tammy Lisa tries to maintain, singing both sides of the duet as Rex sulks and embarrasses her, leading her to finally fully break her barely maintained composure.

While all of this is going on, Lauren, the guest-turned-possible-replacement-host is feeling less like an auditioner and more like a prisoner as her time keeps getting extended and her segment pushed back.  While she’s waiting, her 18-year-old babysitter shows up with her son, acting very strange.  When Tammy Lisa sees the young nanny, she questions why Lauren would allow someone like that into her house; isn’t she worried about her husband having a wandering eye?  Lauren is appalled at the thought – this is someone she’s treated like a member of her family!  But when the babysitter accidentally leaves her phone lying around, Tammy Lisa insists that Lauren look through it; at first Lauren refuses, but as Tammy Lisa gets more aggressive and Lauren’s reasons not to look get more and more flimsy, the audience can see what’s coming.

“You’re not allowed to babysit anymore.”

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The show has a certain level of absurdity as it progresses, and the side characters that surround Lauren and Tammy Lisa in this imagined world are so artfully and comically realized, that it’s easy to miss the clues to the big reveal; once the truth is spoken, however, you start to look back on the show and you can see places where the women weren’t so clearly separated and moments that seemed inconsequential suddenly take on more depth.

Lauren and Tammy Lisa are the same person.  They’re both trying to keep it together, one with big “I’m fine!” gestures and a cheerfully fragile exterior, the other by pulling away and using self help-y platitudes about “these things happening” and pushing all doubts and potential triggers away like a nanny’s cell phone being kicked back and forth across a soundstage.

Live 04Once you know the secret, that all of this is some sort of internal chaos being worked out by someone experiencing intimate, emotional trauma, you can see that this show is about so much more than just a middle-aged woman with a kid living through her husband’s affair with their young babysitter.  This show is about processing pain, about how we survive.  Lauren’s “First Kiss” bit that she was invited on the show to perform turns out to be a story about being an 11-year-old who is taken advantage of by a 19-year-old man who, instead of a love letter, sends her a hand-drawn sexually explicit cartoon.  She has a fight with her husband after the babysitter-turned-girlfriend cuts Lauren’s son’s hair, and as she is yelling at her husband she realizes that hair will grow back and those awkward bangs are just a symbol of so much other wreckage.  Anyone who knows trauma will recognize the back and forth, the simultaneous trying to learn “the lessons” and the frantic trying not to freak the fuck out, the emotional roller-coaster, and feeling like nothing makes sense while, in some ways, it’s also perfectly clear.

As I was watching the show, there were moments that were so different from my own experiences, and yet so relatable.  It’s not my story, but in a way it’s everyone’s story.  Everyone who has loved and had it end and had to sort through the pieces to figure out what could be saved and what they learned and what it means to be who they are now.

The show ends on a cautiously optimistic note: Lauren tucking in her son, and playing a ukulele cover of Alicia Bridges’ “I Love The Nightlife.”

“Please don’t talk about love tonight.
Please don’t talk about sweet love.
Please don’t talk about being true,
and all the trouble that we been through.
Please don’t talk about all the plans that we had
for fixing this broken romance.
I want to go where the people dance.
I want some action.
I want to live.”

It’s a beautiful moment and her scaled down rendition is playful and sad and touching.  If you never believed that a disco song could bring a tear to your eye, well, then that’s just one more surprise this show has in store for you.

Whatever your relationship to heartbreak, something in this playful and quirky show by Weedman and directed by Allison Narver will resonate for you.  Weedman is vulnerable in exploring the various facets of her pain and the multitude of voices that exist inside her psyche, trying to make sense of the world and craft a narrative in which she is, if not triumphant, at least whole.  I found pieces of myself in her collection of characters, and the messy truth is that we all, at one time or another, live with pieces of ourselves that we’re trying to put back together.

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Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore runs through August 12 at the ACT Theatre in downtown Seattle.  Tickets can be purchased through the ACT website HERE.

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