You might assume that when an actor cries on stage, the character’s predicament in the script is the reason.
In truth, budding actors are taught early on that the best way to start the tears flowing is to recall a most painful personal memory that still causes them grief.
Maddie Corman’s eyes are moist through all 90 minutes of her one-woman play ACCIDENTALLY BRAVE. Here, though, the character’s predicament in the script and the past painful personal memory are one and the same.
On July 29, 2015, while Corman was driving to perform in a TV show, her cell phone rang. Little did she know that while she was reaching to answer, she was experiencing the last second of peace and happiness that she would have for a long, long time.
Her distraught daughter was calling to report what the newspapers would trumpet the next day about her father and Corman’s husband: “Jace Alexander Arrested: LAW & ORDER Director Found with Child Porn.”
By then, it was already old news. (No) thanks to radio, TV and the Internet, Corman says “The world found out moments after we found out.”
So much for really knowing a man who’d been “my best friend” for 20 years and who was the father of her three children. Corman, then 45, shows us projections of the couple’s joy-filled wedding pictures, one of which made the Sunday Times. That’s quite a different image from a subsequent slide that comes onto the screen: her husband’s mug shot.
Alexander is either immediately fired or must resign from every job, board and committee with which he was associated. The fat checks that were routinely coming into the house disappeared. Money suddenly became a problem, especially with the new expense of lawyers.
It wasn’t just Alexander’s problem, was it? “I am sometimes ashamed,” Corman says. “If I stay with my husband, people won’t like me.” She was even reluctant to leave the house and face the world. Thus she gave a new and sadly ironic meaning to the phrase “stay-at-home mom.”
Most people would love to lose 10 pounds in six days as Corman did, but no one would care to shed them from the loss of appetite brought on by this situation.
Twenty minutes into the show, Corman tells about help from an angel; a slide of one is projected on the screen behind her. We assume that she’s about to say that she’s Found God, as those who’ve been ho-hum about religion do when they’re truly desperate.
Despite the graphic, that’s not the type of angel Corman means. A woman – a well-known one whose name we’d recognize but aren’t told – came out of the blue to help. Although “everyone had advice” and urged her to read certain books, here was the person who had the most helpful and accurate guidance.
“You’re going to be all right,” says the angel, which Corman says “I believe – and don’t believe.”
This will hardly be the only time that Corman follows one statement with a contradictory one. That becomes her life. Stay or divorce? Have Alexander sleep in the guest room or in their bedroom? Visit him in rehab or stay home? Change where their children go to school or leave them where they are?
No matter what plan comes to Corman’s mind, she finds herself immediately considering a different one. If Harold Prince hadn’t called his first memoir CONTRADICTIONS, that title would be a logical one for Corman’s show.
Then there’s the ultimate contradiction. We often hear about “a love-hate relationship,” but this nightmare takes it to the maximum.
Technology that usually improves our lives makes Corman’s worse in one sense. If this had happened before call-waiting, Corman would have to deal with only one phone caller at a time while others would get busy signals. Now with those intrusive beeps, she feels compelled to answer other people while keeping the first caller on the line. Who knows what the next call will bring – although even one of them would drive the average person mad.
One hour into the show, a projection tells us only “Seven weeks after the incident” have passed. And yet we already feel as if we’ve lived through a lifetime of terror. Compare our 60 minutes to the 70,560 that Corman had endured during that span.
Three days after that, Alexander returns from rehab, which makes matters more arduous. Those happy autumn holidays are now to be dreaded. On Halloween, won’t parents make sure their children go nowhere near the Alexander-Corman house? And what about that holiday a month later when you’re supposed to give thanks for what you have?
“Porn,” she tells us from what’s she’s learned, “can be as addictive as crystal meth.” Those who spend time surfing the Internet for this material may see this as a cautionary tale.
Shows about dire subjects often try to sell tickets by saying how their scripts are suffused with unexpected humor. ACCIDENTALLY BRAVE makes no such claim. Corman never states a line that’s rip-roaringly funny or cracks even the slightest joke. You may occasionally find yourself laughing at incongruities — “Which bills did you pay before you went to rehab?” – but you’ll be far more riveted than entertained.
Corman, in telling “my own messy true story” admits that “maybe I just like to hear myself talk.” Some may well think that’s the case while even resenting that they must become de facto psychiatrists. Shrinks get good money; theatergoers must pay it. This is not a show that will have you coming out singing “That’s Entertainment!”
And yet, before ACCIDENTALLY BRAVE began – after the lights were dimmed to black and the stage lights were only starting to come up – those in attendance were already giving Corman applause. They knew going in what had happened to her and they wanted to lend their support.
Ninety minutes later, their empathy-level had risen so much that they immediately rose out of their seats as if they’d been given electric shocks.
No, the shocks weren’t electric, but they had been plentiful.
Maddie Corman would undoubtedly prefer that the standing ovation come from her writing and her telling her story extraordinarily well and not because she survived an unspeakable torment. And that will be indeed the real reason why you’ll stand as soon as Corman emerges for her curtain call.