Not everyone who gets a dose of sodium pentothal—the infamous “truth serum”—as the first stage of preoperative anesthesia has a reaction like Deb Margolin’s. Instead of drifting into a dreamy twilight prior to losing consciousness, the writer/performer talked for 12 minutes straight. Before she finally went under, the surgeon told her that when she woke up she wouldn’t remember any of her nonstop monologue. She replied, “Oh yes I will. I will remember the spirit and texture of this conversation.”
Which provided the ironic title and subtitle of the one-woman show Margolin created from the experience. Because the doctor was right: she didn’t remember a thing. In O Yes I Will, Margolin imagines not only the spirit and texture, but the content of what she might have said in that stream-of-subconsciousness riff unfettered by the superego’s usual restraints.
The piece begins with the performer on stage “looking small, frightened, and determined.” I can imagine Jeannine Haas in that attitude—especially the determined part—as she plumbs Margolin’s imagined scenarios in area performances over the next three weekends. Haas is a widely experienced actor and director who, over the past few years, has established her company, Pauline Productions, as a prime source of theater by, about, with, and not-just-for women.
Director Toby Bercovici, who suggested this script as a vehicle for Haas, calls Margolin’s writing “unbelievably rich, unique, and specific.” She describes the play as “funny and joyful, but also deeply sad. The character is fighting for her life, fighting to stay present using language and human connection. As Deb wrote to us when we were embarking on the piece, ‘The stakes are high and tender.'”
In a series of mini-monologues, at once philosophically probing and screamingly funny, the performer/patient explores various possibilities of what she fancies—or fears—she might have said during those 12 mysterious minutes. There’s a panicky wait-a-minute-fellas plea as the scalpels are sharpened; a riff on the heart and its functions, physiological and symbolic; an unbridled rant about George Dubya; meditations on not only the mind-body connection but on language, so maddeningly inadequate but ultimately transcending the mortal body; and a silent coda that both reflects and refutes that insight.
“I think we go to the theater to imagine our lives in the bodies of others, in the morality of others,” says the performer by way of introduction. The short piece invites us to imagine living in her body, mind and spirit as she hovers—literally and metaphorically—in the limbo between consciousness and oblivion, the ordinary and extraordinary, the familiar solidity of experience and the strange exhilaration of the unknown.
O Yes I Will: Nov. 4-5, Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Smith College; Nov. 11-12 and 18-19 at the First Congregational Church, Ashfield, (413) 268-3850 or PaulineLive.com. Talkback with the author after the Nov. 4 performance.