“My name is Tallulah, and I’m a compulsive liar.”
So begins Memoir of a Mythomaniac, a Fringe offering from East Tennessee State University Patchwork Players. The story of Tallulah, whose actual name is Jane, is told as a fractured narrative, combining traditional dramatic scenes of exposition with break-out scenes of movement and dance. And it works, mostly, thanks to the energy of the six, young, able-bodied and game performers in the troupe.
Mythomaniac begins and ends with Jane (Kelsey Danielle Mumpower) as her fabricated alter ego, addressing the audience.
In between, we learn what in her life pushed her to that moment where the lies — the colorful myths — are so much more interesting and preferred over reality. Was it losing her best friend in high school, the one she literally leaned on to get through those tough years? Was it the broken heart (and worse) she experienced when her boss chose another girl over her? Or did the escape from reality start when her alcoholic mother went out for groceries one day and never came back?
It’s an interesting journey, to be sure (presented at the Hanke 1 venue, 1128 Main St.). Director, writer, choreographer and performer Cara Harker (a Thomas More College alum, now an assistant professor of dance at ETSU) returns to the Cincinnati area with this ambitious piece. The use of dance intertwined with traditional drama was new to me, admittedly. But Fringe is about opening our minds, right?
The movement sequences are good. The troupe ably uses the art form to advance the story. The acting in the piece, however, is often uneven and a little flat. One instance where that was not the case was the moving scene between Jane’s father (Matthew D. Huffman) and her therapist (Everett Tarlton). Easily the best written and well-acted sequence in the show, it was raw, emotional and moving.
Harker pulls solid work out of her students with a piece that requires great emotional depth and discipline. It’s always nice to see a homecoming like this one.
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