Leslie Caveny is a woman of accomplishment. A writer and performer, Ms. Caveny has written for film and television—NewsRadio, Mad About You and Everybody Loves Raymond, for which she won an Emmy as co-executive producer. She is also a successful, talented playwright. Her latest work, One Woman Gone Wrong, ostensibly an autobiographical one-woman show, showcases not only her writing skills, but also her fearless performance chops.
Solo performances are common. Often they are inspired by literary luminaries like Mark Twain, Robert Browning or Truman Capote. Others are semi-autobiographical. Leslie Caveny is not interested in that. Instead, she shreds the expected forms of solo performance soon after she begins. In the guise of her character, Actress, she begins with a typical trope of childhood—house, family, neighborhood, school—then loses the thread of her purported performance. From there on she goes totally off the rails, upending the convention by vectoring in and out of her rehearsed story. She is helped, and sometimes hindered, by her crew—assistant stage manager, Anne (Anne Leyden), and her lighting man, Frank (Frank Gangarossa)—who struggle to keep her on track. Other members (Sheila Shaw, Seemah Wilder, and the Accompanist Tom Adams)—help or hinder as required by the playwright.
Ms. Caveny spews with a bitter, emotional hilarity that might make Louis C. K. green with envy. With incomparable energy she manages to alienate her support-staff as she struggles to get back inside her rehearsed one-woman show. And she often breaks into a capella song. Her sneering, snarled rendition of that pleasant 1950s song, “Que Sera, Sera,” obliterates all recollection of Doris Day. It is striking and hilarious and made this audience member love her!
One Woman Gone Wrong has echoes of the existential that call up remembrances of Beckett. At one point in the performance, she sends her remaining staff out of the theatre to bring back Frank who is “somewhere out there,” having stormed off after being abused by the Actress, leaving her alone on stage in the glaring light of the wrong cue. And there is something Godot-like in her musing that, “…a rock is a rock.”
One Woman Gone Wrong, directed by Maria Burton, is a brilliant triumph for Leslie Caveny. Utterly unpredictable, and insanely hilarious, this show is a must-see. Of course, the overly sensitive might be offended, but that is a risk well taken.
One Woman Gone Wrong plays on Sunday nights at 7:00pm through November 27 at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles.