Leslie Caveny, Emmy-winning TV comedy writer (NewsRadio, Mad About You, Everybody Loves Raymond), is at the New York International Fringe Festival in a not-quite-one-woman piece of twisted meta-theater that will leave you alternately howling with laughter and squirming in your seat.
Caveny plays a somewhat – how much we’re never sure – fictionalized version of the writer she is, who has written a work for the stage which she considered doing as a play, considered doing as a musical, but finally decided on doing as an (almost) one-woman show.
It doesn’t quite work out that way. A handful of deadpan-funny supporting players pop in and out of the action as “Caveny” slowly and angrily melts down before our eyes – forgetting her lines, riffing on the conventions and secrets of the theater, performing bawdy stand-up comedy, ruminating with grey gravitas on turning 50, and screaming at the poor souls who are only trying to do her a favor by operating the lights or playing her mother.
The closing sequence in which this anti-heroine returns, or emerges, into a state of artistic grace came as a surprise to me, satisfying in one way, disconcerting in another. It rounds out her character. It also puts the anxious hysteria that preceded it into perhaps too-neat perspective. I guess I was rooting for a victory of some kind by the furious mess she had become, especially after her decisive, hollering declaration of what she believes her fundamental nature to be. (It would be wrong of me to reveal what that is.) Though what that victory would look like I’m not sure I can imagine.
Nevertheless it is a lovely moment, capping off an achingly hilarious hour with a grouchy diva who has spent most of her career behind the camera. It was an hour I loved.