“Deal or No Deal” is Brenda’s tale, and Brenda is a very pitiful creature. The story opens mildly, with the socially awkward girl struggling to understand her sister’s harrangues, handle the insults of her bratty niece and nephew and understand her grocer’s friendliness which is just as confusing to her as the nastiness she endures from her family. I was completely caught up in pity for her, an apparent lost soul. And then, as she goes through her day making tea and watching a game show in the company of her neighbor, her past slips out in dribs and drabs until suddenly the pity switch flips back to neutral. I didn’t suddenly feel that her family was right to be nasty to her, but I could understand why they were. That McCormack could get me to flip by judgment in 6 pages of concise text is a cunningly efficient maneuver which left me a bit wobbly in my reading parts.
“Storyteller” finds Katie careening through her life at a fast pace, following a bomb blast. As she unwinds the knots of her tangled tale her patter becomes less and less assured, her poise starts to slip. She lives a mendacious life, and she knows it, justifies it, and celebrates it. She never apologizes, and doesn’t entertain the possibility that there’s another honest way of living – at least not for her. But how far would she go to protect her carefully structured identity? And if not apologetic, is she vindictive towards those who she believes set her on the lying path?
In coming weeks, I’ll be on stage for improv again and am sorely tempted to bring to life on stage some of these irascible, weirdly bewildered characters – I can imagine Katie, in a Grace Kelly scarf patiently explaining herself to a reporter with mounting anxiety. Brenda could easily appear on a bus, riding along in silence and needing a retreat from the world with to trouble her. I wonder if McCormack would be willing to let me let these dogsbodies onto the stage- or if they are better kept in a jar, in a lab, underground, and away from the light of day.