It’s the Renata Friedman Show!
Backstory: Back at an ACT reading in 2005, Renata Friedman fell hard for Laura Schellhardt’s play The K of D: an urban legend, about a small Ohio town where a girl allegedly had the power to kill anything with a kiss. Renata tag teamed with director Braden Abraham and a few other designers to produce the play on her own as a solo show in the Balagan space in 2008, to rave reviews before taking it on the road and even making the finals of the New York Fringe Festival, surpassing over two hundred other productions. Seattle Rep AD Jerry Manning saw opportunity and decided to produce the show this month with Renata, Braden and the other designers in the Leo K Theatre. Having heard good things about the 2008 original run, I put aside my reservations about solo shows and looked forward to seeing this production.
Since I’m not in the mood to rewrite 1000 words, I’ll be relatively brief and call this a benchmark show. This is what a good solo show looks like: It tells a distinct story with a reasonably satisfying conclusion, and the performer disappears seamlessly into over a dozen different characters, giving each one as distinct a personality as possible. The worst I can possibly say about the performance is that many of the characters seemed a bit stereotypical, but that could just as easily be a product of the writing, and still it’s an immense accomplishment for a performer to bring all of them to life as unique individuals and weave seamlessly between them in active scenes.
If all solo shows had all these elements and featured performers this dynamic, I’d love the genre and its corresponding artistic rise in current society instead of doubting it. This show is indeed Renata Friedman’s defining performance and this is one time where the requisite Seattle Rep Standing Ovation was well-deserved. Many solo shows struggle to get past an hour and 10 minutes, and yet Renata had enough gas in the tank to power through 85 minutes and appear to have enough in her to do 90 more.
Would I have paid $50 to see it? I wouldn’t have. If you pay $50 to see theatre all the time, go ahead and pay $50 to see Renata Friedman play 17 characters colorfully well. If you can get cheap tickets (Goldstar?) or comped in, definitely go see it. Go see what a good solo show looks like.