Have you ever had one of those friends — you know what I mean, the one you love dearly but who just won’t stop talking? You enjoy her, but then you can’t wait to get away and catch your breath. That’s what it felt like to watch Lauren Weedman’s one-woman show about Philadelphia. I enjoyed every minute of it, but then I went outside to calm down.
Weedman enters with high energy, dancing to a raunchy tune, and she keeps up the pace, seemingly without needing to pause for breath for the next 75 minutes. Even stopping to drink water is turned into a dance number lest we pull back for a moment and she loses us to our own thoughts or our technology.
My first impression of Weedman is that here is this L.A. person, wearing black jeans, a lacy tank top, and scuffed cowgirl boots, who has gotten trapped in Philadelphia and can’t get out. But she makes the most of it. She embraces Philly, eating cheesesteaks, going to a Phillies game, checking out jazz clubs, watching a building be demolished, taking ballroom dance lessons.
I’ve been in Philly for about two years now, and I’m just beginning to know the city. Weedman was here for just ten days, and she was everywhere — all the places I’d like to go — and even found a few dates on Tinder Philadelphia (a location-based dating app). Her dates took her to jazz clubs and the Rocky statue.
It was fun to watch her work. Words tripping over each other, eager to cram it all in before time ran out. We could see parts of the process. At many improv shows, the audience fills out scraps of paper with suggestions for routines. Here, Weedman had her own scraps of paper piled on a table, notes about her adventures and overheard snippets of conversations, and just as David Letterman throws away his Top Ten List cards after he reads each one, she tossed each slip of paper to the floor as she completed it.
Weedman does live in L.A., as she told us, although she’s originally from Indianapolis. Living in L.A., she says, is like having an abusive boyfriend she’s always planning to leave.
Lurching from crisis to crisis
She has brought this show to other cities, and it seems to parallel the crises of her life. She sometimes goes to a local psychic to learn what’s going on when she’s too busy to pay attention herself. In Portland, Oregon, the psychic told her that her marriage was over. By Boise, she had learned her husband had cheated on her with their babysitter and has since gotten divorced. Warned by a friend that she “can’t be an artist and a mother,” she nevertheless has a child and is raising him as a single mother. Now in Philly, she is looking to start dating again, although she has to watch out for a tendency to fall instantly in love with everyone she meets.
While she treated her personal dramas with humor, there was seriousness, too. She goes in search of the spot where the Center City jogger, whom she knew, was killed and pauses for a moment to contemplate life and death. And in her ballroom dance lessons she comes up against her own need to control everything around her and, for a moment, she learns to surrender and let herself be led.
Most of us walk past the city around us without looking up. Weedman walked past City Hall and was amazed at its beauty, but everyone around her was looking down or texting. Her show is a reminder to stop for a moment, look at the adventure around us, and take advantage of it. Whether it’s seeing a sign for a dancing studio and getting a life lesson, or meeting a musician in a jazz club who opens you up to hearing music in a new way, the opportunity to explore both ourselves and our city is all around us. We just have to take a risk and try something new.