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*Search For Signs,* Jan 18, 2022

Richard and I saw *The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe* at The Shed on Jan 18, 2022. It's a play from 1985 by Jane Wagner, a one-woman play written for her partner Lily Tomlin. Tomlin won the Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Play for this. The single actor plays about 15 different characters over the course of the show. The central character is Trudy, a homeless lady who serves as a sort of tour guide to a group of aliens who want to learn about life on earth.


This revival was produced by Wagner and Tomlin, starring Cecily Strong of *Saturday Night Live* fame and directed by Leigh Silverman. Richard saw the original production, I read the script back in the day - - the program notes said that it was the first play in 20 years to make the NY Times bestseller list, which makes me wonder what the previous play was...


We felt like the show had a hard time finding its rhythm for a while. Is that a problem with the play, the director, or the actor? It did find its footing after a little while. Strong gave a wonderful performance, changing characters on a dime, keeping it all together, delivering the message with heart and relish. The first two thirds of the play is rather fragmented, shifting gears from character to character very rapidly. The final third follows one story about a frustrated California feminist, her husband, her friends, her twin sons. It was a little incongruous to have such a long, focused section near the end of the show, but it drew me in. And the story had more depth than much of the rest of the show.


The play is full of such compassion, honesty, humor, and warmth. Its final and most affecting act of generosity is towards the audience. Which I, of course, found profoundly moving.




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