Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

One take on DECONSTRUCTING HOLLY a one-woman show by Holly Sidell (Presented at The Broadwater Black Box) is that it could just be really hard to voice sensitive issues about ourselves without feeling the need to apologize.  Or maybe it’s just that the rest of us are so used to pushing away, ignoring or filtering out the discomfort we feel when touched by another person’s pain, the subject feels uncomfortable talking about it. Either way, creating a comedy about what’s going on inside of ourselves may help diffuse the tension.  But sometimes, it doesn’t allow enough of a path into compassion.  And so it is with this play.

Sidell’s foray into solo work is, as many first-time solo artists are, impressively authentic and risk-taking. The writer/actress discusses highly-charged, personal material  – how she was ripped apart literally and figuratively through the surgical removal of her biological ‘lady parts’, because of a breast cancer diagnosis and BRCA ovarian cancer gene mutation.   Through DECONSTRUCTING HOLLY, Sidell attempts to address the emotional aftermath and cull a sense of healing by exploring the question, “What’s left of a woman when the physical parts of a woman are gone?”

In the hierarchy of what works in this production is that Sidell is a phenomenal actress.  She’s bringing her A-game to every moment.  And underneath all of the jokes and silly coverups, there is a sense of deeply held pain just wanting to be alleviated.

The subject matter is profound.  There is nothing more important for any woman than to be able to hear other women’s stories about the most sensitive issues regarding their bodies.  For through story there is a possibility of collective as well as individual healing.  The more we feel like we’re not alone, the less outcast we are and closer to processing our personal experiences.

The script needs work.  There are genuine nuggets here.  But because of the constant humor, the story bypasses its own importance.  Comedy centering around a deep issue is definitely a choice.  But incessant laughter about it blocks us, the listeners, from honestly and empathetically feeling something for the person going through THE most life-altering moment of her life.  As human beings, we actually need that kind of courage.

The direction is manic.  Physically, it’s all over the stage.  But then, the script is simply all over the place.  There’s almost no pause for breath, and really, this whole thing requires “air”. 

Overall, what Sidell is attempting to do is heroic. I just needed a quiet moment to let it all sink in.

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