by Leta Tremblay · December 13, 2015
After being asked who is comfortable with audience participation, we are lead one by one into the small room and guided to our seats. A young woman sits amid pleasantly floral scented bubbles, face turned away from us. “Enjoy the show!” entreats our host and with a click of the closing door, away we go.
Solo performer Siobhan O’Loughlin begins by telling us that she’s been in quite a few bicycle accidents. But none of them were her fault! Even so, here she is, with her brightly colored cast on her left hand … sitting in a bathtub.
“Could you wash my back?” Siobhan asks an audience member sitting nearest to her.
I’ve experienced site-specific theater in a lot of unusual places in New York City but never before have I found myself sitting in a bathroom with six other people to see a play. Our surroundings immediately brought a whole new level of intimacy to the encounter.
Broken Bone Bathtub is written and performed by O’Loughlin and is being presented by Elephant Run District in bathrooms across New York City this winter. Amidst bubbles and shampoo, O’Loughlin transports us on the journey that brought her to this present moment: the head on collision that resulted in her broken hand, the process of her recovery, and the emotional complications of being human. Throughout, she also asks us, her friends who have loaned this bathtub to her, questions about our lives, experiences, insecurities, and traumas. I often found myself forgetting that I was at a play and had to remember not to continue conversation with Siobhan each time she returned to her own story. The flow between audience engagement and solo show was effortless.
An incredibly gifted storyteller, O’Loughlin has the uncanny ability to activate her personal narrative while at the same time engaging one on one with each person in the room and making us feel like friends by the end of her story.
Sometimes you go to the theater to witness a drama unfolding on a stage in front of you. And sometimes you travel to Harlem and have a theatrical experience in someone’s home. O’Loughlin exhibits extraordinary bravery by bringing her work into this intimate and nontraditional location. She is baring it all, literally and emotionally, in the most generous and innovative way. Her warmth, humor, and openness while sitting naked in lukewarm water made us feel totally at ease.
Broken Bone Bathtub is unlike anything that you’ve experienced before. It will change your perspective.