It is usually difficult for a one-woman show to keep an audience riveted through the entire performance. But it’s a piece of cake for Leslie Caveny, who wrote and stars in “One Woman Gone Wrong,” now having its West Coast premiere at Theater West in Los Angeles.
It’s a 70-minute melodramatic rant that almost immediately turns into a hilarious romp through the psyche of a woman who consistently describes herself as an “asshole” and a “self-indulgent whiner.” And of course, she adds, “you know that self-indulgence is not accepted in Hollywood.”
She starts her story boldly with the line “I remember a house with yellow shingles and green shutters…” while a screen behind her flashes a
grainy shot of the house. After a long pause she realizes that she has
forgotten where to go from there, and she calls to her backstage assistant, “Line!”, with ever-rising volume as her assistant fails to appear.
Eventually Annie (Anne Leyden) shows up to feed her the next line.
But she has lost her place in the script, so she prompts Caveny with a series of wrong lines. Caveny finally accepts defeat and returns to the beginning: “I remember a house with yellow shingles and green shutters…” It is a line she will repeat continually, every time the show slides out from under her. And it gets a laugh every time.
She introduces one of her main themes, her mother, whom she describes as a “brain-dead, traumatized dingbat.” Realizing that her mother is in the audience, she apologizes profusely to her, while the mother (Sheila Shaw) shouts, “I’m not your mother!”, thereby precipitating a fiercely hysterical shouting match with her “daughter.”
Shortly afterwards, however, Caveny acknowledges that the woman is not her mother, and focuses on another woman in the audience (Seemah Wilder), addressing her as “Mother!” Wilder, a shy, elegant white-haired lady, slumps down in her seat, close to tears, as she
wails, “I’m not your mother…”
Having disconcerted both “mothers,” Caveny returns to her wandering story and sings an altered version of “Que Sera Sera”. She also has a protracted battle with the lighting engineer, Frank (Frank Gangarossa), who quickly becomes angry and combative.
She digresses about women wasting energy and emotions worrying about their looks. “It isn’t as if big tits and ass are a choice…” she says. And, as she opens a big umbrella, she acknowledges that “I look 20% better under a pink umbrella.”
She also admits that she’s 50, or 54, and that she “got old like a frog gets boiled”: slowly, until it’s too late to get out.
She doesn’t look like a frog, however. She looks like a homeless woman who’s been on the road too long. Her ratty once-pink dress is graying and tattered, with long threads hanging from the hemline and sleeves. Her hair, long and blonde, frames a pretty, middle-aged face, and her figure is a little bit lumpy. But, she says, “doing a one-woman show badly can’t kill you” and “you still wake up for breakfast.”
Well, it isn’t exactly a one-woman show when you’re accompanied by four terrific actors and an accompanist (Tom Adams) on the piano, but who wants to quibble about that! Under Maria Burton’s excellent direction there’s enough quibbling onstage to satisfy any normal curmudgeon.
“One Woman Gone Wrong” can be seen every Sunday at 7 p.m.
through Nov. 27 at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles. Reserve tickets online at www.theatrewest.org or by calling (323) 851-7977.
By Cynthia Citron