All the Ways to Say I Love You: My Own Private Confession.
Judith Light’s school teacher/counselor, Mrs. Johnson asks us a question at the beginning of this 60 minute monologue, “What is the weight of a lie?”, but holds back on the answer. We all know that there is no one single truthful answer. What she gives us instead is a tangled web of rationalizations, admissions, and untruths, wrapped around a story as simple and complex as one can imagine. Her character, as precisely directed by Leigh Silverman, is in need of confession. It’s choking her soul and her existence and it needs to come out, said out loud for her to stop feeling suffocated by her actions and motives. She tells us her sordid tale in hope of some form of forgiveness or absolution. But from whom? And who is she confessing to?
The imagination of Neil LaBute is here in full effect in Light’s powerful and desperate portrayal in MCC’s All the Ways to Say I Love You. It is ferocious and driven in biblical proportions. She’s not going to let herself get off lightly but torture herself mercilessly, chastising herself. It’s a surprisingly convoluted story leading us down many dead ends and pathways as she tries to, basically, deceive herself in what she has done. Rationalize her deceitful behavior while admitting her guilt. It’s a compelling hour of theatre.
Staged in her school office (set design by Rachel Hauck), one isn’t quite sure the need for such an environment. It seems to be a distraction to both her and us from the darkness of the admission of the guilt and the shame she carries. But the hour as a whole seems a bit slim as a full meal. I couldn’t help thinking of the equally disturbing three monologue play, Faith Healer, and wishing we had a similar opportunity to have the other two characters be fleshed out, and in that we might have a deeper connection to what really happened in the hearts of all three.
As it stands, it’s a powerful hour, an appetizer of complicated self-flagellation coated with denial. Spiraling admissions of pain and loneliness and burden. And we can only applaud Light’s rawness and bravery. And hope for LaBute’s further development of this story.