By Ron Fassler
It was with some trepidation that I took my seat at actress Maddie Corman’s one-person play Accidentally Brave, which she wrote and appears in. I knew going in what the subject matter was, since I followed the story of what happened to her and her family as it unfolded in the newspapers three-and-a-half years ago. It’s a shocking sequence of events, and one that leaves you feeling how you might fare yourself if faced with circumstances that hold the power to unsettle your life so that it will never be the same again. It is not the death of a child (life’s most unbearable horror), nor a tragedy that leaves someone physically impaired from that point forward. No, this is a psychological break . . . and since the psychosis is that of her husband’s, it is right up front that Corman tells us the why’s and wherefores are his story to tell, not hers. What we get here is her own personal passage through hell. And it’s one she tells us does not end with, “And don’t worry, I’m okay.”
So it is to Corman’s credit, and to her director Kristin Hanggi, that they have crafted an evening that is pitched at exactly the right level of revealing personal drama (and trauma), that still leaves room for one’s own feelings. The dissection of Corman’s marriage is brutally honest, and at times, left me with certain uncomfortable feelings that came up about my own marital history—reverberations of what occurs when trust is shattered and picking up the pieces is fraught with fear of the future—although few people on any given night will have anything that compares with Corman’s story.
What happened is that one morning the police arrived at the Westchester home Corman shared with her husband, then a prominent director and producer in film and television. Corman, herself an actress, wasn’t there, but driving to Brooklyn to film the first part of a two-day guest starring role on a TV series. The scene when she re-enacts her daughter phoning while she’s behind the wheel of her car is truly harrowing. Corman is shaking while her daughter is screaming about how the police are all over the house and taking away her dad’s computer, terrifying her, alongside her two younger twin brothers. Their dad is speechless; in shock that he has been found out, arrested for illegally downloaded child pornography and in possession of videos that feature underage children performing sex acts.
The New York Times ran an interview last week with Corman, the title of which read: “Her Husband Did the Unthinkable: This is a Play about Everything After.” Taking the pain that is still part of her everyday waking life, Corman has crafted her play into something that must have been therapeutic to put down on paper. And the bravery of standing on a stage and telling her story (hers, not her husband’s or her children’s version of these events), is something to see. An accomplished actress, Corman uses her toned and lithe body to express herself physically, and her supple voice, allows her to change characterizations in a split-second. She is aided by a first-rate sound design by Bart Fasbender, and projection design by Elaine J. McCarthy. The simple set that Jo Winiarski has created, offers the feeling of being both a real place, as well as limbo, which is still decidedly where Corman lingers.
As the NY Times article reported: “Here’s what she [Corman] calls the spoiler: Nearly four years later, after rehab, an ongoing 12-step program, couples therapy and much anguished wrestling with questions of ethics, family and the nature of forgiveness, she and her husband remain married.”
At the top of the show, Corman mentions the word “journey,” then quickly takes it back (“Oh my God, I hate the word ‘journey’”). Be that as it may, though this unique play takes us to some very dark places, it is a journey. And though I use the word “happily” with caution, it is one of empathy and compassion—and well worth seeing.
Accidentally Brave. Through July 14at the DR2 Theatre (103 E. 15th Street between Union Square East and Irving Place). 90 minutes, no intermission. www.darylroththeatre.com
Photos: Jeremy Daniel