Professional Nonprofit Theater on Martha's Vineyard
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Playhouse provides one-person shows during the month of May.

Going Solo

By Gwyn McAllister, MV Times


Melinda Buckley. —Anthony Bianciella

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse offers audiences a pre–summer season treat with four solo shows presented throughout the month of May. “Our Spring Solo Shows represent the first time the playhouse has presented a complete lineup of solo shows, all in one month,” says Playhouse executive and artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo, noting that the theater has a storied history of presenting new material by solo performers, including famed monologist Spalding Gray.

First up in the series on Tuesday, May 8, will be Brennan Srisirikul, who recently gave a motivational talk at the high school on living with disabilities, and will perform show tunes and pop music interspersed with personal stories and insights on living with cerebral palsy. As described on Srisirikul’s website, the show “In My Own Little Corner” chronicles his journey rolling through life as a disabled man. This one-man show includes stories of the twists, turns, and triumphs of living life on wheels. “In My Own Little Corner” features songs from the musical theater and pop music canon.

The actor, singer, author, and speaker earned a degree in theater performance with a concentration in musical theatre from Rhode Island College before going on to a successful theater career. Some highlights include performing at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in 2013, and recording as part of an ensemble for the Broadway cast recording of “Pippin” with Andrea Martin.

Srisirikul has performed his one-man show, with accompaniment by musical director Lila Kane, at venues throughout the country, including New York City’s Metropolitan Room.

Next weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, actress and writer Melinda Buckley of New York City will present her autobiographical one-woman show “Mother (and Me).” The solo piece features Buckley playing dozens of characters from her life, as well as adding some dancing and singing.

As described on the creator’s website, “‘Mom (and Me)’ focuses on a larger-than-life Hungarian ‘Mama Rose’ waltzing into dementia as her Broadway baby shimmies into middle age. A funny and touching one-woman show about stepping up and finding your own light.”

As an actress, singer, and dancer, Buckley has appeared on Broadway and in several national tours. Highlights include “Crazy for You,” “A Chorus Line,” and the Bob Fosse revival of “Sweet Charity.” As an improv, sketch, and standup performer, she has appeared at all the major clubs in New York City.

Buckley, who leads workshops in creating one-person shows with an organization called Go-Solo, was inspired to create her own show by the woman who encouraged her professionally — her mother. “She was determined that I was going to go to dance school,” says the accomplished performer. “Culture was very important in our household. I come from a very small blue-collar town, and she really stuck out. She was beautiful and she was funny and a character. We had a very close relationship. At the same time, our relationship was complicated.”

The show focuses on that relationship during Buckley’s youth through her mother’s decline in health, and the changes faced by both mother and daughter. “It’s about Alzheimer’s but it’s actually a very uplifting theater piece,” says Buckley.

On May 18 and 19, writer and monologist Jenny Allen will also tackle a serious subject with a blend of humor and pathos when she presents her solo show “I Got Sick and Then I Got Better.”

Described on Allen’s website as “a comic riff on one woman’s adventures after falling down the medical rabbit hole,” the show deals with Allen’s experiences as a cancer survivor with her signature insightful humor. Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the the solo show as “Lovely … full of pithy, quotable observations that still acknowledge that facing death cannot be reduced to an epigram.”

Ms. Allen’s essays and articles have appeared for years in many magazines, including the New Yorker and the New York Times, and she recently released a book of humor pieces title “Would Everybody Please Stop,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Rounding up the month of solo shows will be Gioia De Cari’s “Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze,” on Memorial Day weekend.

If you think math can’t be funny, think again, and if you think women can’t do comedy, check out three shining examples of the brilliant female humorists coming to the playhouse this month.

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