Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — these are the five stages of the grieving cycle. They also provided the prompts for men and women to go head-to-head in solo performance in Space 55’s “A Bitch in Time: He Said/She Said.”
In the past four installations, “A Bitch in Time” was a compilation of solo performances by 10 women who performed whatever they wanted. This time, half the cast was male, and performers were given prompts. The show was divided into two acts, both of which followed the grieving cycle. Each prompt was performed by both a woman and a man in their respective acts.
The performances were all a form of monologue, ranging from high-energy acting with props to measured stand-up comedy. The variety made for a show that kept me interested throughout, from the humorous highs to the serious lows.
An especially effective aspect of the performance was the way the performers transcended their prompts, speaking out about issues like self-image, bipolar and other mental disorders, sex and rape. The stories wove together a tapestry of people all struggling to understand themselves and those around them.
Another element of “A Bitch in Time” that worked well was its combination of humor and seriousness. Jokes perforated the heavy issues the stories dealt with, making them easier to digest and making it a whole lot easier to stay in my seat. While the serious themes were clear, they were less difficult to process when sprinkled with humor.
While the variation between the performances was an upside, it also had drawbacks. Some performers made a strong impact, while others lost power because their stories dragged. There were people whose monologues were not memorized, which detracted from the performance purely because reading required them to direct energy at the paper rather than the audience.
The first performer, Pina, used props, staging and character voices, all of which served to draw my interest. Her performance was also emotionally impactful, which set the bar for the rest of the performances. The show started strong, but unfortunately, that meant the weaker performers struggled to match up.
Whether or not there were weaker performances, I never lost interest. “A Bitch in Time” mixes deep storytelling with light jokes, and it was well worth seeing.
Space 55 is a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing affordable and accessible theater to Phoenix. It is located on Seventh and Pierce streets.