- In a scene from My Brilliant Divorce, Dr. Stedman (Richie Rayfield) and his student doctor (Laurie Blankenship) review nervous Angela’s possible ailments.
Angela calls a Suicide Helpline just for someone to visit with. She’s not suicidal, just lonely and looking for conversation with a human rather than her dog Dexter. Angela places a “lonely hearts” ad, takes solo vacations and even makes an awkward visit to a sex shop.
Angela is suddenly single after her husband announces he has met another woman and is leaving. Who hasn’t been there? OK, so it might be a “girls-night-out” play, but many men will be able to relate to as well.
Don’t get depressed. Divorce is hilarious in the hands of Oklahoma actress Lili Bassett in Carpenter Square’s latest production, My Brilliant Divorce.
Written by Geraldine Aron, the comedy follows Angela, an American in London dealing with her new “single lady” status. The three-actor play features Laurie Blankenship and Richie Rayfield portraying more than a dozen characters each alongside Bassett’s Angela.
“The two other actors play all the men and women she interacts with during the three years following the divorce,” said Linda McDonald, director of My Brilliant Divorce.
Blankenship and Rayfield take on Angela’s lawyer, mother, doctor, cleaning women, relatives, husband’s lovers and estranged husband.
The part of Angela spoke to Bassett partly because she could relate to Angela’s plight.
“Oh, that’s so sad … that’s tragic,” is a common reaction when Bassett tells her friends about the play, which runs Friday to July 21. “But it’s actually, it’s a comedy. There are so many parts of it that are so inspiring and heartwarming, and anybody who’s ever had a broken heart and bounced back will definitely be able to relate to this story because I know I certainly can.”
Bassett is no stranger to opening her emotions and wounds on stage. She has been performing around central Oklahoma and particularly at Carpenter Square for more than two decades.
“It’s challenging and it’s exciting and just one of the best things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do,” Bassett said. “I’m just so grateful to Linda for giving me the opportunity for doing this particular role because a lot of the things that Angela is going through I have gone through not too long ago. So it’s exciting for an actress to get that … to have a role that is so close to your own real life.”
It’s a sort of method acting and therapy at once for Bassett.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly it. I mean, you just put yourself in. You just take from your life what you can apply to the role and it just comes,” she said. “I mean, it’s genuine. In fact, there are still ... there are still two speeches that I have yet to get through without breaking into tears.”
The play is one woman’s story and has been presented as a one-woman show, but her estranged husband is the main counterpart as well as her patient doctor, who has been dealing with her hilarious hypochondria for years.
Taking the three-actor approach to the show gives the play the added dimension of seeing the characters Angela bemoans, and the job for Blankenship and Rayfield means constant popping in and out of wigs, quick costume changes, prop changes and keeping track of what might be clinically classified as dissociative identity disorder outside the acting world.
The gender choice of the show’s premise might seem a bit trite, but McDonald said you could flip genders and the show would still work.
“Wives leave their husbands, too,” McDonald said. “I would say that [Bassett] nails what happens when anyone gets divorced, rather than stereotyping it.”
My Brilliant Divorce moves quickly, in and out of mini-scenes, which keeps the pace of the show fluid. The story is told with a modern approach (presentational and theatrical, McDonald said), and Angela’s optimistic gullibility causes her to say things she doesn’t even know are hilarious.
“It’s never too late to bloom and discover who you really are,” McDonald said.
Bassett has been blooming as a local actress for years, having performed often at Carpenter Square Theatre. In August, she and McDonald were the leads in Ripcord.
“When Carpenter Square chooses their season, they may not be the most well-known plays, but they always have wonderful women’s roles,” Bassett said. “And I think they have figured out the talent pool here, that there are a lot of actresses in a lot of age ranges that are talented, have been well-trained, that are very disciplined and willing to work. So I think that’s very wise of them.”
Being a bit beyond the ingénue roles for young women, Bassett joked, you move to the mom, then you graduate into a Golden Girl.
“I’m kind of between the mom roles and the Golden Girls roles,” Bassett said.
My Brilliant Divorce runs 8 p.m. June 29-30 and July 6-7; 7:30 p.m. July 12, 8 p.m. July 13-14 and 2 p.m. July 15; and 7:30 p.m. July 19 and 8 p.m. July 20-21.
Tickets are $5-$25. Reservations are highly recommended for the intimate 90-seat theater.
Call 405-232-6500 or visit carpentersquare.com.Update 6/28/2018: Director Linda McDonald was misidentified as artistic director Rhonda Clark in a previous version of this story. Oklahoma Gazette regrets the error.