We have much wonderful local theater in Woodstock, and some of it is a must-see. Do not on any account miss Sharon Breslau’s hilarious and heart-breaking new one-woman show, Gloriously Naked And Flailing, at the Byrdcliffe Theater this weekend at 8 pm, Friday and Saturday and 5 pm Sunday.
Woodstock is justly proud of its reputation as the most famous small town in the world. For the most part this title glances back at Woodstock’s headlining past. But there are performers here who keep that historic glow shining bright, and Sharon Breslau is one.
Take it from me: Sharon should be on Broadway; she should be on TV; she should be a nationally known name. But fame is a roulette wheel, and it hasn’t yet landed on Sharon’s number. She’s been polishing her writer’s and comedienne’s art, and we have the privilege of enjoying it as one of America’s better-kept secrets. Not for long, if there’s any justice. But catch her while she’s still ours — that’s a special pleasure we can enjoy.
There’s a teasing, defiant saying, in the theater, that where acting is concerned there are no small parts, only small actors; it’s no less true that there are no lesser arts, only lesser artists, and in the hands of genius, cabaret becomes as miraculous an art as opera or mime. It takes sublime mimicry, shameless daring, and exquisite wit to hold an audience for an entire evening with quick-sketch characters that plumb to the depths of human behavior. Sharon Breslau belongs with monologists like Whoopi Goldberg and Tracy Ullman as masters of the genre. In truth, it takes more than wit and daring to bring off what these actors achieve: it takes something akin to possession. Breslau’s art is at its best when unconnected to drama or to revue material, at its best when it aims for no punch-line, no narrative surprises and no connections to the other brilliant shards of reality she conjures up, but is simply a starburst of outrageous, unselfconscious character, observed with a candor that is fond and brutal at the same time. The monolog that closes the first half of her show, an inhabitant of St. Mark’s Place leaning out of her window and commenting on life below, is the gem of the evening.
Sharon’s riffs arise out of a shamanic need to be other people in their most alarming nature; the impersonations reveal an impulse to both exorcise a horror at the absurdity of others and embrace it as intimately our own in order to belong, in a world of human beings horribly familiar and unbearably strange to us. They are us, of course. Not for nothing does Breslau make many of her characters in this show orphans seeking or confessing adoption. This is of the essence of her inspiration: other people make us feel adopted, and Breslau’s work, her natural affinity, her genius, her compulsion, is all about turning the entire world into family, even its most alien members. Don’t miss this show — or any of Sharon Breslau’s shows. You will come out, having laughed yourself silly, feeling reconciled to humanity.
Gloriously Naked & Flailing plays at Byrdcliffe Theater on Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27 at 8 p.m | Sunday, July 28th at 5 p.m.
Call 845 – 679-7900 for reservations.