It was a bit odd — sitting down for a show at a place called PlayMakers and hearing the first line spoken from the stage: “This is not a play.”
Play or not, odd or not, PlayMakers Repertory Company’s current PRC2 second-stage production of Virginia Grise’s 80-minute autobiographical play, Your Healing Is Killing Me: A Performance Manifesto, performed by Florinda Bryant tonight through Sunday, April 28th, in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre, is definitely worth seeing. Austin, TX playwright Virginia Grise refers to Your Healing Is Killing Me as “a performance manifesto.” It is a call to action for us to get creative and to solve problems. The piece is directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury and performer Florinda Bryant is credited with “additional writing.”
On a shallow, nearly bare stage, Bryant takes us with her as Grise revisits her arduous and unpleasant journey through our capitalist healthcare system. Among the points of Grise’s message: “Capitalism is toxic, and The Revolution is not in your body butter.” “Self-preservation is an act or political warfare.” “Who are we fighting?” and “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
The performance area of the stage is backed by an arc of larger-than-life screens on which black-and-white sketches of the Bryant are projected. These images change at intervals, as what is best referred to as the performance/lecture moves forward into new stages.
The sole set piece at the outset is a stool on which two rolled-up bandages rest. As the houselights dim, Florinda Bryant takes the stage. As she speaks, she uses the bandages to wrap her hands as a boxer would and shares highs and lows of Grise’s personal history. The metaphor: she is ready for a fight.
We learn early on that Grise’s father (a veteran who had gone blind) had taught her to “think critically and politically” and that, while he had no objection to her being a lesbian, he was bothered by her choice to be an artist. We also learn about “Karla with a K” — Grise’s imaginary friend who was “a Fast Girl and a Shit-Talker” — and how she fit into Grise’s early family dynamics.
Sometimes, Bryant lays a few facts between the lines. For instance, we learn that at age 5 Grise had “learned to be scared of men on my street.” Very soon thereafter, she tells us that it was at age 12 that Grise first had consensual sex and that she had no memory of life before age 12.
As Grise sought assistance in getting medical help, she was asked several times: “Do you or anyone in your family have a history of mental illness?” When she answered “No” repeatedly, the case worker told her, “I can’t help you.” And she experienced other similar roadblocks in her quest for a cure to her monstrous case of eczema.
Virginia Grise’s piece is a serious indictment of our for-profit healthcare system. Her bulldog determination and her gentle humor easily captivated and engaged a near-sellout audience on opening night (April 24th).
NOTE: PRC2 productions always follow their performances with a “conversation.” Click here and scroll down for a list of participants. This information might influence your decision of which performance to attend.
SECOND OPINION: April 17th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/your-healing-is-killing-me/.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents YOUR HEALING IS KILLING ME: A PERFORMANCE MANIFESTO, co-written and performed by Florinda Bryant, at 7:30 p.m. April 26 and 27 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 28 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $12-$35, with discounts for UNC students, faculty, and staff, except $15 general admission on Community Night (Sunday, April 28th).
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://tickets.playmakersrep.org/.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.
SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/show/your-healing-is-killing-me/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/346175616020451/.
2018-19 SEASON (Shifting Ground: Theatre That Moves): http://playmakersrep.org/season/2018-2019/
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: This show is recommended for mature audiences, age 18 and above.
NOTE 2: There will be FREE post-show “conversation,” with members of the cast, creative team, and subject-matter experts, after each performance. Click here and scroll down for a list of participants.
Your Healing Is Killing Me: A Performance Manifesto (2007 performance manifesto): http://www.virginiagrise.com/your-healing-is-killing-me (VirginiaGrise.com) and http://www.playsinverse.com/catalog/your-healing-is-killing-me.html (Plays Inverse).
Virginia Grise (Austin, TX playwright): http://www.virginiagrise.com/ (official website), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/virginia-grise/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.facebook.com/virginia.grise (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/vgrise (Twitter page).
Florinda Bryant (Austin, TX actress and writer): http://playmakersrep.org/artists/florinda-bryant/ (PlayMakers Rep bio) and https://www.facebook.com/latinanegra (Facebook page).
Shayok Misha Chowdhury (Brooklyn, NC director): http://www.shayokmishachowdhury.com/ (official website), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/shayok-misha-chowdhury/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), and https://theatre.williams.edu/profile/mc28/ (Williams bio).
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.