An overstuffed suitcase of memories

‘Packing’

Packing presented by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. (Photo courtesy of About Face Theatre)
Packing presented by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. (Photo courtesy of About Face Theatre)

4 stars

Each of us have lived lives that are filled with significant situations, emotional events and meaningful memories. If we all possessed an eloquent gift for writing, as well as a talent for emotionally honest storytelling, any one of us could probably condense our childhood, adolescence and early adult years into a 90 minute narrative, like this. But few would be as captivating at sharing his life story as Scott Bradley.

Performing on a simple, white square platform that sometimes serves as a blank canvas for Stephen Mazurek’s colorful and evocative projection artwork, Bradley opens his heart and bares his soul in this incredibly moving solo performance of discord and survival.

Scott Bradley has come a long way. Today he wears many hats. Not only a talented actor and playwright, he’s a gifted and empathetic educator, performer and director.

Chicago audiences may recall his off-the-wall genderqueer-rock-puppet-spectacles of “Alien Queen,” “The Carpenters Halloween,” “Mollywood” and “Tran: The Atari Musical.” His wacky holiday musical fantasy, “We Three Lizas,” which premiered a few years ago at About Face Theatre, was later revised and reprized a couple years later, to great delight.

In addition to About Face, Scott’s work has been enjoyed at The Hypcrites, Walkabout Theatre, Hell in a Handbag, Bailiwick Repertory and many other venues. In short, this isn’t Scott Bradley’s first rodeo.

Bradley unpacks his overstuffed suitcase of memories, removing each episode from his life, piece-by-piece, as if they were treasured articles of clothing.

Some recollections evoke warm feelings of nostalgia; others are painful and stinging. And, of course, Scott plays himself, which is far more difficult and challenging than theatergoers may think. He spends the next hour-and-a-half taking us on a detailed journey that is his life story. It’s a tale filled to the brim with freaky flashbacks, harrowing and hurtful years of torture, inspirational life lessons and the constant drive to rise above the odds and survive.

Scott’s life, so far, plays out over years of moving from place to place. He begins his life in rural Iowa during the late 1960’s. Balancing the nurturing and love given by his mother and grandma, with great pain and revilement from others, Bradley struggles to find himself.

Before he admits that he’s gay, young Scott endures years of physical and emotional abuse, sometimes at the hands of his father and stepfather, but more often from his own peers and adults in positions of authority.

Packing presented by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. (Photo courtesy of About Face Theatre)
Packing presented by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. (Photo courtesy of About Face Theatre)

 

Always packing, unpacking and repacking his feelings along with his belongings, Bradley finds himself relocating all over the country.

Sometimes he’s with his family; at other times all by himself. He even wins a scholarship to attend drama school in England where he’s finally accepted as a gay artist.

Scott lived off-and-on in New York City where he became addicted to booze and hard drugs. There, he eventually found the man he’ll love forever and together they relocated to Chicago. But, at the center of this stirring narrative, we meet a man who’s always discovering and learning things about himself while forever moving and packing.

Skillfully directed with sensitivity and artistry by Chay Yew, the esteemed artistic director of Victory Gardens, Bradley is wonderful in this solo performance. He paints a colorful self-portrait of a talented, caring human being who simply wants to be loved, recognized for his skills and accepted for who he is.

In this touching, heartfelt, honest and often humorous performance,  Bradley bares his soul and shows us that he’s Everyman. He’s just like every one of us, in so many ways. Thus, this incredible solo performance taps into our own hearts and souls and leaves us enlightened, as well as entertained.

DETAILS: “Packing” is by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, through Dec. 7, 2019. Running time: 90 minutes. For tickets and other information call  (773) 975-8150 or visit About Face Theatre.

Colin Douglas

For more shows visit TheatreInChicago.

 

 

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