Ann Randolph’s Loveland takes on another tragic subject with ‘dirty hilarity.’
Thursday, May 19, 2011
At age 18, Ann Randolph paid for college by working – and living – in Ohio’s Athens State Mental Hospital because they provided room and board. She took patients on road trips and wrote plays with them for three years.
“They weren’t leaving, I wasn’t leaving,” she says. “We became like a family.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest comes to mind.
“I had keys to the place,” she says. “I can’t believe they would let an 18-year-old take 12 of [the patients] in a van to see my boyfriend’s rock band.”
She would write her own plays, too, injected with the humor and depth that would land the aspiring playwright, actress and comedian spots in L.A. comedy troupes alongside future SNL stars Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri and Molly Shannon, and Reno 911 comedians like Mo Collins. While honing her craft, Randolph gravitated toward longer-form narrative monologues. Like Squeeze Box.
Based on her 10 years working graveyard shift at Daybreak Women’s Shelter for the mentally ill in Santa Monica, the one-woman show attracted the attention of Mel Brooks and his wife, the late Anne Bancroft. They championed her.
“She’s a bit of a genius,” Brooks told a New York television news crew after her performance. “I was blown away, stunned, overcome with love and admiration.”
The Guardian chimed in with “demented and brilliantly humane.”
That portends much for Randolph’s fifth solo show, Loveland, coming Saturday to Carmel Valley. Randolph calls it “the most emotionally potent thing I’ve done.
“My father died a year and a half ago,” she says. “He was in a nursing home dying and my mother had a stroke and started drinking for the first time in her life. It was too much. I wrote about it to help me in the grief. But I’m a funny person. So my play has both. It came out organically.”
Over the course of her father’s decline, Randolph flew back and forth between her home, stage gigs and job at the women’s shelter in Santa Monica, and the nursing home in her hometown of Loveland, Ohio. She wrote Loveland on the airplane.
The play centers on the semi-autobiographical Frannie Potts, who is emotionally raw from the death of her mother. We meet Frannie on an airplane, interacting with several people (all played by Randolph) including a businessman, flight attendant and meditation leader.
When someone refers to her “loss,” she lashes out with abandon: “I did not lose my mother! You lose your car keys, you lose your wallet. She died! But wait, maybe I did lose her under the cushion. Mother, are you there?”
“People have good intentions,” Randolph says, “But there’s nothing they can say. Frannie expresses the truth, the pain, and it’s too much for people. They want you to move on quickly.
“I’ve performed Loveland probably a couple hundred times,” Randolph adds. “I’m continually improving it, deepening it. I lose it a little every night. I can be weeping as Frannie and then I’ll play the stewardess: ‘You need to calm down.’ It’s a release for me.”
Another cathartic moment came when she performed excerpts for her father in his hospital bed: “He loved it.”
“One therapist was recommending her clients who were dealing with loss to [come see the show]. It’s not therapy, it’s healing, but it’s hilarious.”
That sounds like the twin masks of theater: tragedy and comedy.
LOVELAND is performed 8pm Saturday at Hidden Valley, 88 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. $20. 310-428-2784, www.annrandolph.com. Ann Randolph conducts a writing workshop this Saturday; RSVP to sign up.