Storytellers. Monologists. One-Woman Shows. The lines blur in the art forms because they are often one in the same. Sometimes the difference is subtle, and I find that sometimes it has to do with how much is taken from personal life stories. An actor (hopefully) personalizes the choices he or she makes on stage; but when you are actually sharing personal tales of your life, then you are no longer acting; you are re-living those events, and hopefully, enlightening the audience with how truly bizarre/beautiful/hilarious/tragic those events are. I found Vodka Shoes (written and performed by Leslie Goshko) to be a really beautiful piece that went beyond the story of an alcoholic father and somewhat dysfunctional family; it was about how that family survived through its love – and all the little things that kept the our narrator, Leslie Goshko, sane along the way.
The show starts off with Goshko at a keyboard piano playing a hilarious ditty about her father teaching her dirty songs while he was drunk when she was a child – oblivious to everything and heartily singing along copying her father – until mother came home. Then begins the storytelling format of the art of the monologist – narrating a tale of family, dysfunction, and heartwarming (and heartbreaking) moments throughout her upbringing. Having had a close relative who was an alcoholic, who could also be an amusing drunk when he wasn’t laying things to waste in his path, I could relate to some of the moments she was recounting. I think anyone who has had a family member who was either an addict or a far-out eccentric (her mother, a bible-thumper of the highest order whose zealotry nearly outweighed her husband’s antics, had her moments) could relate to Goshko’s tales that painted a tapestry of her life, weaving in and out of each other. I found especially endearing and yet tragic the relationship with her sibling who, after being cared for for an illness and nursed back to health, took off without looking back until years later – much to the confusion of the sister who was left behind.
Anyone entering this theatre expecting simply an evening of amusing stories of drunken fatherly antics is in for something much, much more. To begin with, as a one-woman show, we as an audience should hope (expect) to be drawn in, to feel what the character is feeling – in short, to share an event, not simply see a performance. One thing I love about the resurgence of monologist art form (you see it in Slams/contests/open mics and various venues all over town more and more) is that it allows artists to share their lives. I mean, let’s face it; who knows how much of these tales are fact or fiction? – but they are presented as a slice of their lives. From the start of Goshko’s Vodka Shoes to the very triumphant end of a young woman coming out on the other side of dysfunction a better person – mostly because of the very people that caused that dysfunction – was moving and fascinating. My only complaint was that we didn’t get more keyboard songs.
Sun Ra once said something to the effect of: “History is his story; mystery is my story. What’s your story?” I think in this situation Goshko made sure that she was never a mystery; her life’s story is an open book. It’s what we do with that open book that remains the mystery.
Vodka Shoes has ended its run.