Down at UNDER St. Marks there are four ladies discussing it. The big, black elephant in the room. Death.
Terrifying, heartbreaking and unrelentingly emotional, losing a loved one is a different journey for us all, but it is in the commonality that we find comfort. In Death: It Happens (A Girl’s Guide to Death) (directed by Lori Kee) we meet four real-life women (Maureen Van Trease, Courtenay Harrington-Bailey, Bricken Sparacino and Rebecca Chiappone) who have lost their fathers in the not-too-distant past; all relatively suddenly, all equally as shocking. They range in age, in background, they are different, but they’re hurting just the same.
This is a brutally honest account of what it means to lose your parent; from the awkward euphemisms to the choosing of the coffin, the bills, the wills and everything in between. It’s hard stuff, but it is told with humor and perspective that keeps it from being a 60-minute sob-fest. An element for which I, personally, was all-too grateful.
I don’t like to get personal in my reviews, but I feel as if I have no choice with this one. I am fortunate enough to have my parents, but I lost both of my grandmothers within a year of each other only too recently. They were strong presences in my life, powerful, beautiful matriarchs who held their families together, loving unconditionally, and shaped me into the person I am today. My maternal grandmother got a big Catholic funeral and wake, and much of what these women talked about summed up my experience: the awkward Facebook messages, the relatives you’ve never seen checking in on you every five minutes, the food and the flowers and the strangeness of it all. But it’s necessary. As weird as it is, as the ladies of Death relate, funerals help.
The production is clearly a cathartic experience for these women in their personal struggles, but it touches the audience nonetheless. By the end, the sniffles and tissues abounded, everyone having their own experience of fear, grief, and loss alongside these brave women. And they are brave. The actual process of death is not often talked about openly. We get memories, stories of the last days, but it is the losing and burying and starting to miss – that is the part that is hardest to openly discuss. Yet these four women are doing it.
Relaxed, confident, and with a little bit of sass, they are truly doing their fathers proud.
The 2012 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL will run February 22-March 4 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Ave and Ave A). Tickets to all shows may be purchased online at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444.