This is the second time I’ve attended a show by monologist Tulis McCall. She’s no less angry, no less honest, no less acerbically funny. The artist admits to 68, but refuses to go gentle into that good night (Dylan Thomas). McCall faces herself in the mirror with a “volcano of regrets” and observes aging with vitriol familiar to anyone in middle years or beyond. “You know you’re getting older when you look at a photo of your parents and think, dang, they were young!!”
McCall is a self-described WCA= Woman of a Certain Age, as in when did Miss turn to Ma’am or even Dear? Asked whether she needs help by well meaning strangers, she erupts. A list of accomplishments weighed against things the performer was supposed to have accomplished, inevitably comes up short. Abstract things are illuminated in physical terms: “Me and my prime went jogging for years, da, dee, da, do, dah… She fell further and further back until she was gone. That’s the story of how I passed my prime.”
Were this a silent film, mercurial emotions would come across clearly. McCall has a face of infinite facets and arms that extend images/thoughts too demanding to remain hidden. The responsive audience eggs her on, laughing at themselves. “Let’s have a show of hands-how many of you know you’re going to die? Ah-to some of you, it will be a surprise. Now, how many of you believe it?… That’s bullshit.” Too true.
Tackled subjects include taking a break from one’s life. “If you don’t take a break, your body will;” the country’s proclivity for confusing “guns with dicks;” a medical Me-Too club, and whether, after a good death, survivors find your apartment clean. Necessary To-Do lists come under fire as does responsibility for what’s looking back at you from the mirror.
Still, McCall is nothing if not stubbornly resilient. She addresses those coming after her and those who went before – “lucky to be living in a time when nothing was trending.” And in the end, actually has a suggestion for proceeding with less baggage.
Once again, my caveat is a story she tells of early family dynamics. Though stating unequivocally, “You’re not born, you’re evicted or in some cases kidnapped,” is droll, the rest of her memory at three years-old seems less than apt.
Tulis McCall runs the monthly monologue series at Cornelia Street Café.
Photos by Betsyann Faiella
Kevin Malony’s TWEED Theaterworks presents
Tulis McCall: At Your Service- Advice from a Woman Who Knows Better
Written and Performed by Tulis McCall
Directed by Austin Pendleton
December 3, 2018
Pangea 178 Second Avenue