by Monica Trausch · August 14, 2014
When I decided to see and write about Michelle Marie Trester’s solo show TO DO: I did not anticipate that I would be in for an afternoon of clowning. Trester enters as an awkward clown on a mission: to find love. Through self-help, online dating, and list-making, this is a woman on a mission. She checks off what she must do to find love one by one, and surely, hopefully, she will find love by the performance’s end.
I was faced with a completely new experience that really opened my mind to what clowning can be. This was truly a modern performance, with contemporary references, jokes, and ideas. There was nothing “old tyme” about it—or any of the other tropes I often associate with clowning. Trester’s hilarious clown was a modern woman looking for love, and with audience participation, contemporary music, and silly gags, she sold me on clowning and maybe even blind dating.
The music of the show was the only sound, as Trester’s clown does not speak. Although the music was always fun and fit the show well, there were a few awkward transitions that made me wish the production had had a sound designer (they did not have one listed in their program).
TO DO: changed my perception on clowning and was a great time. So often we leave a theater changed or moved or deep in thought—but how often do we leave with all of those things but also with a giant, goofy smile on our faces, holding balloons and hot Cheetos? Get over to the Lower East Side and see TO DO: you will be in for a treat!
Later in the day, I hopped over from TO DO: to see Mary Matoula Webb’s play Love at Home. Webb is a playwright I have worked with and admire, so I was excited to see Love at Home after I missed it’s earlier production in the city last year. This play is about two sisters’ journeys—one to come out as gay and accept herself, one to accept her sister. The sisters are part of a strict, traditional Mormon family who believes in the Book of Mormon, and finding a husband, above all else. The play jumps chronologically throughout the journey of this family—from confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anger, and, finally, understanding from Becca that her sister Diana is loved by their God, even though she is different.
In her playwright’s note, Webb (who also directed and produced the play) quotes Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Webb agrees, but enlightens her audience with the idea that well-behaved women may not be making headlines, but they are “the ones who weave out the change that the spark [of those history-makers] illuminated.” Becca may be an average, well-behaved Mormon girl, but she stands up, in her own small way, beneath and supported by the spark of Diana’s bravery. It is an amazing sentiment and this sweet play spreads a message of love, change, and acceptance.