By Wesley James
Sarah Meyers’ I Do Today is the charming and deceptively complex journey of a family tree into a map of the human mind. While billed as a one-woman-show about a Jewish bisexual’s life and relationships, I Do Today is more of a seminar on our relationship to relationships, using one life as an example.
We start by examining marriage with our subject sketching out her immediate family tree on a beautiful drawing board. What follows are the relationships built off these ones – the many failed marriages, the eventual lasting ones, lovers and imaginary friends and celebrity crushes and the ways even they are bound by religion and family.
The play spends a long time laying these foundations, then eschews the usual practice of knocking them down, opting instead to begin to run them together into this exposed and honest prism. Science runs into imaginary friends and binds family and sexuality, marriage rolls romantic love into mythology and family, and in a delightful twist mythology morphs into sexuality before our eyes. All the while our tree/map evolves on the board until we know it intimately, until we’re content to simply sit and watch it grow. It seems obvious, in retrospect, that any true map of the human mind looks more like a hurricane.
This is a play of telling really intimate stories. That aspect, along with being a solo performance, makes it all the more impressive in how many pitfalls this production deftly sidesteps. Receiving so much vulnerable information about a person can be uncomfortable for the audience or even lead to an overall maudlin tone. Great credit, then, must go to Carin Silkaitis, for imbuing these powerful words with such an inviting and generous levity. The show doesn’t vary much in tone, but that tone is one of constant assurance that it’s okay to laugh with the narrator. In this way we reach a place of great empathy, of humorous collaborative celebration of both ups and downs. The performance takes on a presentational style, the tiniest of distancing tactics so we’re not completely engulfed by Silkaitis’ obvious connection to the stories she tells.
This isn’t a conventional narrative – our narrator ends up fairly happy, probably, so far, but that’s hardly where it ends or what it’s about. She certainly ends up honest, and moves us closer to that destination – we see so poignantly her waiting, her assuming the mantle of her own mythology, her loving and losing, judging and surviving judgment, and ultimately winding up somewhere strange and making something strange out of it. Again, in this flux, Silkaitis’ warm and giving approach is vitally important because it turns the real lens of introspection and study onto ourselves. The play, then, is a gift, the map an opportunity, the protagonist is the audience: a perfect inversion of the classic, selfish shortcomings of a one-person-show.
I Do Today runs a tight 75 minutes, with ample room to breathe and play. In that time it’s engaging, it’s reflective, and it’s so damn solidaritous, so friendly. Go to read the map, to learn to understand and laugh at yourself and to better welcome your friends to do the same.
I DO TODAY by Sarah Myers runs through October 9th at the Greenhouse Theater Center as part of their Solo Celebration. The production is directed by Jacob Harvey. More information: www.TheOtherTheatreCompany.com or www.GreenhouseTheater.org