In a one-man band, there's a lot of huffing and puffing as the flautist races to pick up his viola, or the timpanist honks her trombone. When Gigi Bermingham premiered her virtually solo show a couple of years ago, we weren't aware of all the heavy breathing as she shifted easily between the odd-bod personalities in her extensive lexicon. Let's not talk about age here, as Bermingham is a vibrant, lively, and extremely sexy performer who could easily blow out all those other candles; this is a woman who acts, sings, mimes, mimics, and outperforms most of the actors on our local stages, or any other.
But one senses that she, as a writer, is doing what many artists do, which is to try to best themselves. The painter who adds a little yellow ochre here, a touch more indigo there, or a highlight on the Madonna's hairline sometimes confounds her own talent, ending up with less than she had when she began. The original production played like a terrific two-acter, with a beginning, middle, and end, and hardly needed any other players. Nonetheless, there were people around me during this redux production who didn't get it, who wondered aloud who all these characters were and what the connection between them was. Too much Bermingham? Maybe. Too many characters? Maybe. A story that was too familiar to the playwright and too complicated and slightly ridiculous to an audience? Maybe. Even though the play is well remembered, it is easy to lose the thread at the point when it seems the old woman, Sarah, voice teacher to the stars, is dead—yet there she is, alive and as rabid as ever in an anticlimactic get-even scene in which Darlene (Bermingham) finally gets her own.
Here is the story in brief: Darlene, an ex-addict, is unofficially adopted by the quintessential do-gooder, Sarah (Bermingham). Darlene believes she bore a dead child but, now clean and sober, wants to have a baby, until she discovers that her tubes were tied while she was sleeping. She befriends a pregnant coffee shop waitress (Bermingham), goes through a multitude of trials, becomes a multitude of characters in the process, and jumps on and off the wagon, always ending up in the soup but eventually triumphing.
This is a superb showcase for a wonderful performer, based on a story by Bermingham and Diana Hamann and well directed by Craig Carlisle, who uses Jason Herren and King Manuel creatively as magazine racks, furniture movers, props handlers, and thugs. As a play, it's a little breathless. One might only suggest that it take a breath and solidify into a real play.
"Non-Vital Organs (Redux)," presented by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Jan. 24-Feb. 29. $22.50-25. (310) 477-2055.