Surviving and Suffering Deb Margolin’s ‘8 Stops’

 

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Review By Marcina Zaccaria

 

There is an extraordinary truth spoken from the survivor onstage in 8 Stops at The Cherry Lane Theatre. In the play, Obie Award Winner Deb Margolin describes her struggle with cancer and chemo-therapy.

Alone in her home, in the town of Montvale, NJ, she copes with the day-to-day challenges of being a survivor. The disease is devastating, and at moments, she considers suicide.

Margolin is no stranger to performance art. A book of her plays, Of All The Nerve: Deb Margolin SOLO, was published in 1999. She won the Kesselring Playwriting Prize in 2005, and other plays include Imagining Madoff and Three Seconds in the Key. Her new play, Turquoise, will be showing later in 2015.

In 8 Stops, Margolin explains how she turned her home into something of a half-way house. Next to a small table with books, she stares at a small rocking chair and dreams about something more than being consumed by disease. With 8 Stops, Margolin faces cancer and her body’s immune response. As she goes through chemotherapy, her body feels drained. Where is her ambition, her drive, her need to continue forward in her community and with her family, outside of the world of tubes and secluded hospital rooms?

She says that the town of Montvale is complete with deer, local millionaires, and far-off parties. A long curtain onstage draped from the ceiling looks almost like silver. It feels airy and fragile. Margolin often separates herself from that ghostly world. It’s clever scenic design by Dara Wishingrad, with branches above her, is filled with small birds, dragonflies, and child’s toys. The trees’ branches somehow hover over her, setting the stage for a world gone wrong, twinged with loss and heartache. Stuffed animals are on the floor. Subtle, evocative lighting design by Thom Weaver streams bits of cool light from behind and in front of the curtain.

There’s something hollow about it. Margolin represents more than the figure of a survivor. She is a caring mother, a bold townsperson, and someone determined to deal with the imagination that emerges after the chemo and hospital. Life is a long journey, and Margolin’s fear doesn’t overcome her. She is often on the verge of tears, though. She finds her anger, and her wavering voice, more often than not, expresses the questions ahead of her. She tempers the stress with the desire to move forward. Taking her stand, she deals with grief, casting the audience as a kind of support group.

Direction by Jay Wahl bridges the gap between audience and solo performance artist. 8 Stops offers a lot in terms of tone and texture. It’s not anyone’s survivor story, it’s Margolin’s. Pensive and often muted, it’s quite profound.

All for One Theater presents new work from solo artists. Running until April 26th at The Cherry Lane Theatre, located at 38 Commerce Street, All for One gives voice to the solo artists who choose to connect with their audience with storytelling and advocacy.

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