December 14, 2018

Theatre Review: “30% Chance of Hailey,” a Storm Unto Itself

 

One-Woman Show at iO West takes no prisoners.

“It’s awkward if you don’t applaud because if you don’t applaud I don’t know if you like me.”

With that slight, subtle and well-sung plea we know that Lyndsay Hailey has heart, a raw nerve and a raging id ready to break out.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LYNDSAY HAILEY

Theatre Review: “30% Chance of Hailey,” a Storm Unto Itself

Lyndsay Hailey is looking for love in all the wrong places in her one-woman show "30% Chance of Hailey" at the iO West Theater.

The premise behind her one-woman show, “30% Chance of Hailey,” is that 30 percent of the content would be authentic extractions from her life, leaving the audience to interpret the difference as satire. With all due respect to the title and arithmetic, the show succeeds because of the 100 percent commitment to her voice and authenticity; laughs be damned.

Through song, dance or monologue, Hailey is constantly pushing and finding the funny through the heightening and release of tension. Daring all who watch to keep pace, the gauntlet is thrown down with the opening song, “Stand There.” Satirizing dance crazes is only the superficial joke as it’s an empirical commentary on groupthink. While the song is blatantly dumbed-down, there isn’t a viewer not on their feet or laughs left to waste. The combination of topical equivoque and subversive leanings is more than appreciated.

“Love Letters” is as wry a commentary on modern-day vulnerability and impatience. Shown through the lens of the antebellum south, we watch a homebound lover left to wait for her beau who has died on the battlefield and frustratingly won’t write back. Watching the slow-burn tension and rising frustration is equally palpable and relatable.

By the time Hailey breaks away from the sketches to introduce herself, the audience already knows her. The intro serves as a nice change of pace before the real comedic/emotional bloodletting begins.

“Ego Yoga” aims for precisely that. Straddling the line of nirvana and crippling depression it becomes painfully obvious that enlightenment is the last thing achieved while in pursuit of it. “Crazy Enlightenment” is one of the shorter sketches in the show while also being its deepest cut. A crazy woman spewing straight nonsense between random streams of consciousness is not a new concept but the moments of clarity is true confessional at its best. The laughs are there but the emotional paydirt is the achievement here. If Hailey’s original conceit was to blur the lines of reality with her self-imposed percentages, then she has won.

As a writer and performer, Lyndsay Hailey is an undiscovered talent. It’s easy to give the “what” and the “where” in comedy, it takes effort to provide the “how” and the “why.” To do so in digestible and universal terms is skillful and admirable. To almost eschew the comedic gimmick in lieu of the emotional returns (which are equally as funny) with bare-all honesty is a welcoming calling card.

“Gymnastics” is a fitting set closer. It’s a perfect visual metaphor for the comedienne- moments of awe and grace promptly served with a ramshackle, controlled chaos that ends in pure comedic rapture.

At her best, Lyndsay Hailey channels the nimble dexterity of Steve Martin with the heart of Gilda Radner. The show is a beautiful blend of high- and low-brow humor that’s served honestly and unflinchingly. “30% Chance of Hailey” can be seen intermittently at the iO West Theater with her next, still-untitled show slated for early 2015.