There’s a touching and funny solo piece lurking somewhere amid the too-random musings of Stephanie Svec’s monologue “I Tried to Be Normal Once, It Didn’t Take.”
A Washington-based actor, writer, director, improv comic and full-time mental health counselor, Svec has mined all her callings to create this account of the rocky road she has traveled while following her bliss. At this stage of development, the piece needs shape and the performer’s delivery needs polish, but that doesn’t mean Svec’s story isn’t appealing.
For theater folks in particular, her words will bring a smile of recognition, especially when she quotes various acting teachers urging students to find any other career they like and do that instead, because theater’s just too hard and undependable.
From the transformative moment in grade school when Svec learned she could make other kids laugh, to the years of acting and comedy improv classes, to the decision to switch her college major to psychology for the sake of a fall-back career, to the fateful day she met her “future ex-husband,” to the devastating loss of her mother, Svec takes us through a struggling artist’s life story. Especially compelling is her realization that she has kept compulsively busy at too many things — too busy to excel at any one thing.
At this stage, it’s the emotional and not the professional moments that land best in “I Tried to Be Normal.” Svec shines when remembering how she responded a client who wanted to know how long his grief would last. The answer she gave is practical — it’ll take about two years — and poignant — it will change you forever.
Anyone who has pursued something doggedly, even while doubting her abilities, and anyone who has been smacked by grief will know what Svec means, even if the script and performer need more time in the rehearsal room.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
I Tried to Be Normal Once, It Didn’t Take
written and performed by Stephanie Svec. 45 minutes. Through Saturday at Capital Fringe Festival. Visit www.capfringe.org.