The Truth: A Tragedy
Singer-performer Cynthia Hopkins unpacks her father's legacy.
Mon May 17 2010
KEY STROKES Hopkins sings a tune about her dad.
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
In The Truth: A Tragedy—the newest, hugely moving Cynthia Hopkins descent into self-obsession—the actor-singer performs a song that is not, strictly speaking, her own. Pounding away at a synthesizer, the composer-performer launches into Onions!, her father’s tonally insane musical about a man working up the nerve (or “onions”) to jump off a ledge. According to our unreliable narrator (Hopkins frequently refers to her alcoholism and psychotropic meds), this masterpiece was only ever performed by the elder Hopkins’s 11-year-old students. Whether this is fact or fabulation matters little; we care more about how the petal-faced enchanter can so bewitch us with a seemingly simple brew of her family’s poignant eccentricities. Hopkins and director DJ Mendel erect a fun-house museum in the lobby so her strange music-and-monologue tribute to her dad exists as the final “curiosity” on display. Her syncopated delivery and haunting yet rollicking songs operate as beautifully as they did in her larger pieces—such as The Success of Failure (or, the Failure of Success)—in which she embroidered allegories onto her own self-destructive instincts. Here, Hopkins tells straightforward tales about her father, his Parkinson’s disease and his housekeeping habits. Despite the avant-garde trappings (she stashes half the show’s props inside her own costume; she tumbles occasionally into Faye Driscoll’s Japanese-inflected dance breaks), The Truth hews to documentary lines, including a reenactment of an interview with her father’s old girlfriend and video of him confined to a wheelchair. This narrowing focus actually increases our unease, as Hopkins fetishizes her family’s pain. Yes, the piece is funny and odd and full of musical delights. But it’s still a tragedy; you’ll need to grow some onions to enjoy it.
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