Performance art. It can be a tricky theater to wrap your ahead around, but I encourage audiences to give it a try. I find I respond most viscerally when the performance is by a gifted storyteller, one able to easily express and emotionally connect with their character and crowd.
In Broken Bone Bathtub, Siobhan O'Loughlin succeeds spectacularly by taking a very intimate act and showing us the universal connection. During a bicycling accident, O'Loughlin suffered a serious fracture to her left wrist and fingers, requiring a cast for many weeks. Comfortably living on her own, and fiercely independent, her life is thrown into turmoil by the fact that she could really use some help. One of her solutions is to ask friends to borrow their bathtub and maybe a hand or two.
O'Loughlin weaves moments of her past, political events, and her difficulties coping with her broken wrist with information gathered from the audience in a truly interactive performance. O'Loughlin shows us her struggles in the intimacy of a "very small theater," and by this I mean various bathrooms in the St. Louis area. By inviting us into her space, she creates a fully immersive theatrical experience, where the audience influences but does not change the story. In this way, Broken Bone Bathtub plays out like a conversation, perfectly unraveling and reforming each night around her deftly constructed story arc.
I left the show with a warm, bubbly glow, but soon found myself revisiting exchanges, recalling O'Loughlin's stories and the human connection she sought. As importantly, I found myself wanting to be more consciously kind: to be genuinely helpful without judgment, to look for commonalities over differences, to empathize with need and, in particular, to remember the healing power of touch.
Productions of all sizes can be absolutely transformative and I found O'Loughlin's show to be intimately so. Uppity Theatre and The Drama Club's Broken Bone Bathtub will be presented at various locations in St. Louis, including the Lemp Mansion, through June 26.