How does she get those bubbles to last an hour? This might be a very logical thought as audiences watch this delightful, boundary breaking, one-woman show Broken Bone Bathtub written and performed by Siobhan O’Loughlin, presented by Elephant Run District in bathrooms across New York City. The premise of the project is to have volunteers donate their bathrooms for an unforgettable evening of theater. Most of the donors are friends and fans, following in the New York tradition of playwrights who staged plays in friends' homes. The location of the show is revealed about a week before which adds to the mystical allure of the production. Upon entering the locale, the audience is greeted warmly with wine and hors d’oeuvres. The host’s living room serves as the lobby and waiting area, where complete strangers get the opportunity to mingle and converse prior to the show. The ambiance and cozy nature sets the tone for the intimate experience that lies ahead.
The audience enters the bathroom, which is quaint. It seats four if the toilet is used as a seat (which it was). Before going in, the team asks if everyone feels comfortable with audience participation and if there is anyone that really feels comfortable. Someone’s hand goes up and the selection is finalized.
Our gusty volunteer enters first. O’Loughlin is waiting in the bubble-filled tub. The show begins. At first, the setup may appear to be a naked, woman in a bathtub having an intimate conversation with four strangers in yet another stranger’s home. The levels of awkwardness have definitely heightened by this point. Yet, the true structure of the production reveals itself as she begins to tell her story of what happened to her arm and why she needed to use her friends’ bathtubs.
After a serious bike accident, O'Loughlin finds the strength to ask her friends for help as she heals not only her arm but her soul. She tells the explicit details of her accident as she delves into human issues and ideologies. She tries to dissect the nature of human relations and connection, all while performing the cleansing act of taking a bath. One thought-provoking moment occurs when she asks the audience, “When was the last time you held someone’s hand?” It was a simple question yet the answers can vary greatly: sad or happy, romantic or friendly, and healing or hurtful. The audience paused for a minute to fully grasp the depth of the question. After a few responses, O’Loughlin makes a rich connection to hands and touch, and how in many ways, simply holding someone’s hand is a true act of humanity. It had an endearing quality and made the audience think and feel.
O’Loughlin does an excellent job of storytelling and audience engagement. It takes bravery and heart to sit share a story and seek comfort with strangers while sitting naked in a bathtub. O’Loughlin is extremely charismatic and has a magical quality that compels audiences to stay and wash her back.
Broke Bone Bathtub is running until Jan. 31st. Tickets are sold-out for the remaining shows tonight at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and tomorrow, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, visit http://siobhanoloughlin.com/nyc/ or http://elephantrundistrict.org.