Broken Bone Bathtub – No More Tears
A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
Siobhan O’Loughlin’s Broken Bone Bathtub, for all of its indie-cred spacial weirdness, felt pretty familiar to me. The women in my family have always loved baths, and it’s a communal thing. I’ve got a thousand memories that take place perched on the edge of the tub with my mother, my sister, even my downstairs neighbor reclining inside like banged up goddesses (we’re not what I’d call super careful with our extremities). They wear grime-ragged bubbles as they reach for threadbare loofahs, shaving, gossiping, crying about the latest thing. It’s cathartic and relaxing for my tribe of mermaids. A damp, closed, bright space in which not just to get, but to come clean. And so, when O’Loughlin popped her curly head up from the side of that tub and starting chatting like we were old friends, the intimacy didn’t feel forced. It felt remembered.
This is the genius of Bathtub – the actual plot, as engaging as it is at times, is hardly the point. O’Loughlin doesn’t come off polished like a master storyteller, and that’s okay. Perfect, actually, because it enables her to be genuine, vulnerable, and real. She’s an oracle sitting on a crack in the ground, fumes migrating to the sky (not to say that the lovely bath products provided by Mount Royal Soaps smell like diatomaceous earth, more like grapefruit and honey, actually). She communicates something much more rare: an invitation lay down our burdens, just for a little while, and feel cozy, safe, connected, and loved.
Whether or not to take her up on that is entirely up to you. I mean, you can sit there like a closed-off blockhead if you want, I guess. And sure, there’s a bitter, slightly rude, definitely jealous voice inside of me that I sternly told to shut the fuck up so I could intentionally engage (especially when it suggested that breaking your hand in a bike accident is fucking terrible but being a tiny, young, pretty white woman probably made things a little easier on that rainy New York night).
But the point here is not to start a suffering Olympics. We are all the stars of our own stories. Our personal triumphs, pains, revelations, are life and death to us. The best part of Broken Bone Bathtub is the way O’Loughlin is able to use her experience as a springboard to truly connect with her audience. She is startlingly, disarmingly direct; she asked me, for example, a question about my mother, which gave me a sharp pain to the heart, given her messy death some years ago. But that’s what we’re here for, right? Submersive Productions invites us, a touch literally in this case, to “dive in”. For fans of “immersive theater” this means that yes, you will be part of the show in an deeply personal, almost therapeutic, way. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic kind of performance that feels special. I’m excited that such a risk-taking company, doing such intensely personal, engaging work, exists in my city. Excited, and proud.
BOTTOM LINE: Broken Bone Bathtub is the kind of production that you should see because it’s going to be what everyone’s talking about and you don’t need the FOMO. It’ll stick with you for a long time. I was so, so, glad I got to experience Siobhan O’Loughlin’s touring rejection of alienation, and you will be too. (And, uh, get those tix now, guys. It takes place in a literal bathroom, which means that there are like ten seats a show. So if you sleep, you weep).
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