by Joan Kane · October 20, 2013
The 4th annual UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL is at Theater Row on 42nd Street October 3 – November 24 with 121 productions. Indie Theater Artist Joan Kane looks at Daze of My Life written and performed by Heldine Aguilez.
Heldine Aguilez begins her solo performance piece, Daze of My Life, as the subject of a job interview who is asked for an interesting fact about herself. She steps out of the interview-plane-of-reality to explain to us that she does not know how to answer the question because she does not like herself. At that point I was afraid I was in for an evening of whiny self-pity. Then Ms. Aguilez shifts gears again and begins to enact the population of her life, starting in her early childhood and progressing through various adventures and betrayals to her current age. Her characterizations of schoolmates, social acquaintances, work-friends, and several generations of family are delightful and entertaining. She may not feel comfortable as herself but she is riveting as other people. She seamlessly changes between personas, often presenting both sides of a conversation so clearly that, even when she becomes someone who doesn't actually have a line, we know exactly who isn't speaking.
Ms. Aguilez’s life story is colorful. We learn that she was adopted from a teenage rape victim mother who had no way to support her and raised in a large extended family of half siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Her parents had high expectations for her, a 92% homework grade that was the best in her class showed a shameful lack of commitment on her part. Only 100% was acceptable. An uncle who drove her to a store for candy treats had darker motives.
The direction, by Debra De Liso, is kept simple, with just two chairs to give Ms. Aguilez somewhere to go from one location to another. The only prop is a child’s Teddy Bear, which is a beloved companion when Ms. Aguilez is being herself as a very young child and which becomes discarded under a chair as she progresses to more mature versions of herself.
The script structure is not quite a complete story arc. Ms. Aguilez is young and her story ends at her current age, leaving us wondering where she will go from this point. Her performing talents are in place and it will be worthwhile to revisit her story in the future as it progresses.
I have, at times, felt that solo performance plays are the work of grumpy, middle-aged men. It was wonderfully refreshing to see a young woman expanding the genre.