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Bag Lady The Bedroom at Fort Fringe

Remaining performances: July 17 6:00, 23 9:00, 26 noon

They say: “Meet Clara, Russian Empress, Survivor, The Virgin Queen.  She’s the Empress of New York with a bench, a doll, a realm to rule.  Travel light.  Only Essentials.”

Joan says: Ranting and rambling raised to an art form.

Playwright Jean Claude van Itallie premiered this one-woman show 30 years ago in New York City.  I used to spend a lot of time in New York during that period.  The protocol for passing a bag lady was eyes averted.   Now all these years later I have been shown the bag lady in all her madness and glory and I know why I was afraid.

Elizabeth Bruce portrays Clara the Bag Lady with an eerie accuracy.  She exudes a wildly oscillating personality, or perhaps personalities—-it’s hard to tell.  Sometimes singing with joy, sometimes cursing in bitterness, she maintains a non-stop patter of stories and philosophy.   It seems that  much of what she says is fantasy—but is it?  In her sad condition, does it even matter?

Though this is technically a one-woman show, the production features recorded voices of people Clara overhears on the street.  They aren’t speaking to her, of course, but their conversational fragments form  the canvas of normal folk on which her art is painted.  And they don’t seem any happier than Clara—-which, in this deftly aching show, is perhaps the message.

See it if: You appreciate good acting for its own sake.

Skip it if: Mental illness gives you the screaming heebie-jeebies.