Brooklyn-based performer Siobhan O’Loughlin brings her bathtub stories to St. Louis in a show that is as intimate as it is interactive.
Broken Bone Bathtub is a solo show where O’Loughlin plays a young woman who is recovering from a serious bicycle injury. She takes over someone’s private bathtub, filling the water with bubbles to cover up. Audience members (in my case, around 15-20) gather into the bathroom, where O’Loughlin is lying with her head down over the tub. The audience got really close, sometimes touching shoulders. I was essentially entering a room with total strangers.
However, that’s also the case with O’Loughlin. You are a stranger to her, yet she welcomes you in with open arms. As soon as everyone is seated, O’Loughlin immediately raises her head and begins communicating with the audience. What does she talk about? Well, multiple things. The through line is her injury, but her anecdotes are endless possibilities. Many of the anecdotes range from fantastically funny to sometimes heartbreaking. O’Loughlin is basically telling a group of strangers her life stories in very intimate detail (her experiences in the hospital are definite highlights).
Fascinating stories can only seem as interesting as how a performer sells them. What stands out about O’Loughlin’s delivery is that her voice has a kind of warm welcome aspect to it. When she’s enthusiastic, she’s enthusiastic. When she’s emotional, she shows it. O’Loughlin brings to the show a presence that is suitable for a show as interactive as this.
The interactivity comes from the fact that the audience essentially becomes the show’s co-stars. The stories O’Loughlin shares comes with even bigger existential questions:
“What do you do when you’re down?”
“Is there a part of your body you’re insecure about?”
“Have you ever had to make an uncomfortable phone call to your mother?”
These are questions that require people to share details they may not be very open to sharing. Yet, the beautiful thing about O’Loughlin is that she is your friend. Scratch that, she is your therapist for the night. It is never easy to share because it can feel like there are not many people who could listen. However, O’Loughlin will listen.
It was amazing to see people open up about some extraordinarily personal battles they are currently facing. How much you share is up to you. But with a performer like O’Loughlin who is as good at listening as she is at communicating, why wouldn’t you? The show I saw is not going to be the same show that you see. Everyone’s story is different, and O’Loughlin adapts impeccably.
The interactive nature also gets physical. I was one of three who sat in front of the tub. O’Loughlin reaches out to you to ask you to help her with her bath. In my case, she asked me to help wash her back with a bar of soap and a towel. That requires trust between the performer and audience. By that time, O’Loughlin’s personality and stories were so infectious that you can’t help but assist her. Of course, you can choose to not do it if you wish.
O’Loughlin not only has to bare herself both physically and emotionally with this show, but that is an expectation of the audience too. The performer has to give us a reason to want to participate. O’Loughlin does that in spades, providing a show that is entertaining, insightful, witty and therapeutic. Broken Bone Bathtub brings you into this woman’s world and, by the time it is over, you will want to revisit it once again.
The show will be showing in private homes across the St. Louis Metro area on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Performances will then take place at the Lemp Mansion of Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and on Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $25 for Thursday shows and $45 for all other showings. To reserve for a Thursday performance, contact Matthew Kerns at email@example.com. For other performances, call (314) 664-8024. V
by Bill Loellke