Safety in Numbers, written and performed by Canadian actress Jan Rudd, is a gentle force of healing disguised as a theatrical one-woman show. The play serves as a winning reminder to audiences that everybody needs somebody sometime.
Rudd played a woman plagued by loneliness who is contemplating suicide. At the top of the show, she is sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring. She sits and stares at it. When it does ring, it's a wrong number. One day, when it seems she has given up all hope, she decides to go to her local community center for a free 12-step-type meeting led by a "presently uncertified" group leader.
Rudd transforms herself into many characters, including a group leader who continually tries to unite the group. She claims to have had a very good childhood "with the exception of the incest and poverty."
Some of her group members included a fiftysomething churchgoer who is only attending the meetings to fulfill a promise to her daughter, who thinks she is too angry and judgmental.
She follows with an angry lesbian who is always smoking, and then the not-so-bright girl who does not seem to be paying attention 100 percent of the time.
Then there is the tall awkward one who thinks that hairy men are disgusting but does not think she is a lesbian. This character, fascinated with Gilligan's Island, was among the most touching.
Rudd the playwright does a great job of channeling the many faces that she brings to the stage. Each voice is distinct and completely different from the next character. Each character has a unique and painful experience.
As a composer, Rudd's final song, Standing on a Whale, is hypnotic and beautiful.
Lighting design, by Hidaki Tsutsui, was simple and effective. The set consisted of a chair, a few black boxes, and a telephone. Rudd's costume was an uncomplicated black ensemble that didn't distract from her story.
Rudd is absolutely dynamite. She is a multitalented actress in possession of a show so human and touching that it surpasses most of the commercial productions on the Great White Way.
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Copyright 2004 Jade Esteban Estrada