Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Broken Bone Bathtub" by Siobhan O'Loughlin in a Bathroom

Broken Bone Bathtub is not your typical night at the theater. This 2015 Minnesota Fringe hit is back in Minnesota, taking place in bathrooms in volunteers' homes around the Twin Cities for the next three weeks. I didn't see it at the Fringe because, I admit, I was scared by the interactive nature of the piece and the idea of helping a stranger take a bath. But I loved Siobhan O'Loughlin's 2014 Fringe show, Natural Novice, and I've heard that Broken Bone Bathtub is not nearly as scary as it sounds, so I'm glad I got a second chance to see it. It's a lovely, funny, poignant, and immersive experience that explores the connections we share every day, big and small.

Siobhan's website explains the show thusly: 
Broken Bone Bathtub is an immersive theatre project taking place inside a bathtub. After a serious bike accident, a young woman musters up the courage to ask for help, and shares her story, exploring themes of trauma, suffering, human generosity and connection. The audience takes on the role of Siobhan’s close friends; not only listening but sharing in their experiences, and assisting the cast-clad artist in the actual ritual of taking a bath.
I was one of six people in the audience, but we weren't so much audience as participants in the story. From her bubble bath, Siobhan tells us the story of her bike accident, injury, and recovery. She shares moments when she felt alone, and other moments when she felt not so alone. She talks to the audience in a conversational way, and somehow gets us to share our stories as well. Believe me, I'm the last person to volunteer for "interactive" theater, but somehow it feels more like opening up to a friend. In a strange way I feel bonded to the other six people in the audience, even though I'll probably never see them again and have already forgotten their names, because each one of us shared an intimate experience, whether an injury, a physical insecurity, or a difficult phone call to mom.

Last year when I saw her in Natural Novice, I wrote that Siobhan was "charming and disarming" while discussing body hair. So it really shouldn't be any surprise that she's charming and disarming while talking to a group of strangers while sitting in a bathtub, asking them to help wash her hair and back. She easily draws you into her story and prompts you to think of similar situations in your own life. Times when you felt helpless, or jealous, or alone, or comforted. In other words, she explores what it is to be human and connect with other humans.

So be brave, go sit in a bathroom with a bunch of strangers and have a conversation, think about life in a different way, and maybe feel a little less alone. Broken Bone Bathtub is playing in a bathroom near you through the end of the month.