BRIGHTON FRINGE REVIEW: Good Grief: Stories at 207 West 88th

Bruna is an Italian woman of a certain age with hilariously broken English – the building superintendent of a New York apartment block.

We first see her in the confessional saying to the unseen priest – “God he is pissed off with me”.

This is because while sweeping the front steps she left a small patch of ice, which her husband Bruno fell on and died. “I killed my husband with an ice patch” she tells anyone who will listen.

So begins Good Grief – a series of monologues and one-way conversations written and performed by New York character actress Terianne Falcone.  The characters she creates and the stories they tell all deal with death and our ability or not to come to terms with grieving.

Bruna’s pigeon English makes us laugh but she essentially has a heart of gold, giving away Big Mac’s to street beggars and putting flowers on the grave of a stranger whose son has died of “haids” as she puts it.

Besides Bruna, we meet, among others, a manic flat hunter who is overjoyed that her prospective room has no window, a neurotic woman recently widowed who discovers she is pregnant, an 86-year-old male cab driver and a baby killer.

Throughout there is humour and pathos for her characters – all linked somehow to the apartment block. The only exception being the harrowing episode where eventually a woman with learning difficulties confesses to two police officers that she killed her baby and has stored it in clingfilm under the stairs for twenty years.

All the characters deal with death in their own way – anger, guilt, humour, sadness and longing. As one says: “I haven’t shed a f*** ing tear”.

The cab driver scene is innocent in its beginning humour but turns very dark as we learn that the guy – a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbour has a terrible murderous secret which he is only too willing to tell. But even he has a light side – marrying again to a 74-year-old who is much taller – “I’ve always looked up to women”.

In her uninvited wedding speech to two tenants, Bruna totally misreads the situation, telling inappropriate toilet jokes – to our delight.

In the end we cannot hate any of these characters. Terianne moves smoothly from one to the other via small interludes of Big City filmic music played by the local trio Purple Pudding Clause.

She holds the stage magnetically and magnificently, and her true skill is in bringing out their humanity and making the point that grief can be good.

You can catch Good Grief at the Warren Theatrebox on June 3 and 4.

 

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