Tropical Depression is a solo show. An extended monologue for one character. However, it is for a character played by an actress — an actress who is not the playwright (aka “me”).
Many solo performances are autobiographical, or are performed by the writer. I tend to think of those as actor-led shows, the work of Anna Deveare Smith or Elaine Stritch.
And then there are shows for one character, completely fictionalized, and written by playwrights to explore the life of one person at one time. Hughie by Eugene O’Neill, Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett (a personal favorite — see my Krapp/The Tick connection, below), or Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno.
“Spoooool!” — Krapp’s Last Tape
“Spoooon!” — The Tick
I never thought I’d write a play for one character, but there’s something interesting about the performance of singularity, of loneliness. How does one person take on the world? What does she do when the forces opposing her are the weather and her own inner turmoil?
Here’s what I’m hoping won’t happen… When I was in Italy a few years ago, my friend and I went to see an outdoor performance of Phedre. Now, I’m completely down with the classics and I speak French, so no matter whose version they were going to put on — the Greeks or Racine — I wasn’t too worried about following along (because the play was going to be in Italian). The play opened: a woman in a long black dress and no shoes sauntered across the stage, smoking a cigarette. PJ Harvey played in the background. She started speaking, and after about 10 minutes of this, I realized, No one else was coming! Oh no! A post-modern, solo Phedre in Italian! Not what I signed up for.
The beauty of solo performances is that they tend to be short. An actor only has so much stamina. Tropical Depression delivers on this front: our running time is only 50 minutes.