Here’s a tip, the most exclusive performance venue in Baltimore isn’t the Hippodrome or the Power Plant. It’s not Centerstage or Everyman. If you’re able to get in, and I suggest you try, the hottest show running in Charm City during these waning days of summer is playing in a lovely private home near Patterson Park. In a bathroom. Seating capacity: 12. Cast: 1.
Created and performed by Siobhan O’Loughlin, Broken Bone Bathtub is a one-hour meta-theatrical meditation on the ability to change the way one sees the world, when one actually stops long enough to look. It is about both O’Loughlin’s discovery of community and kindness in the aftermath of a bike accident in Brooklyn, and the audience’s similar discovery with a group of strangers in a strange home sharing drinks and snacks, while listening to a woman tell a story while taking a bath. Got that?
If theatre is a communal experience, one that requires an actor to perform and an audience to react, Ms. O’Loughlin has taken this idea and run with it. We are not just her audience, but her confidantes and her friends. I mean, would you ask anyone but a friend to wash your hair, your back or massage your hands? Would you walk up to a stranger and ask, have you ever taken a platonic shower with someone, when was the last time you held hands, or what makes you jealous?
Yes, there is participation, but before you stop reading right here, O’Loughlin exudes such a natural warmth and the setting of the piece is so intimate, that it didn’t seem strange at all to share with such a small group. It felt, dare I say, soothing and, I’ll go a step further and say that it also felt safe.
And herein lies the magic in what O’Loughlin has created (with additional production details by Ursula Marcum and Glenn Ricci, Music by Shane O’Loughlin, Soundscape by Glenn Ricci, and Art Installation by Amanda Burnham). She has conceived of a piece of art that is built on a foundation of trust, that relies equally on audience and performer, for sixty minutes or so, and results in a safe, ephemeral community…in a bathroom. The concept is preposterous. It shouldn’t work. It does. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but it does. And I was in awe of it.
I’m being purposely vague about the details of O’Loughlin’s story, because part of the beauty is hearing how it unfolds and how it comes together. But if you open your mind, and your eyes, the gifts she offers are overflowing. I received them in abundance. And as I write this, almost 24 hours later, I’m still glowing.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.