Being funny isn’t easy, but with a witty play, a gifted actress and a perceptive director, it looks effortless. Award-winning Irish playwright Geraldine Aron’s “My Brilliant Divorce” is a hilariously satirical, emotionally insightful reflection on heartbreak. Since its 2001 premiere in Galway, Ireland, the show has been popular throughout the world, appearing in 33 countries, but was only produced in the U.S. in 2012. Asolo Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards had a hand in collaborations with the author to alter the script somewhat and turn Angela into a displaced American. In telling the story of one woman’s divorce, Aron’s play exercises those universal feelings of loss and rejection we humans are heir to, but all too prone to hide.
In contrast to last year’s successful Asolo Rep production of “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” in which Mary Testa’s vivacious persona stood out from the other actors', this is a one-woman show, but Testa makes it seem fully populated. She comically mimics several absent characters, including her lawyer, mother and her doctor. Testa told me after the show that her favorite part of performing in this play is the storytelling, through which the audience becomes like another character with which she enjoys conversing. As such, a member of the audience experiences both tears and laughter through her vulnerability and openness. I left the theater feeling jovial and relaxed, like I’d just spent two hours at a health spa with my best friend who is also a shrink and carries tissues and Belgian chocolates in her purse. Comedy really is the best therapy.
Besides having the vision to choose this play and put veteran actress, singer and comedienne Testa in it, direrector Edwards brings the perfect amount of both sparseness and snap to its execution. The physical enhancements to the script are well-chosen, most comically the mechanical terrier that speeds zippily across the stage at apropos moments. Aaron Rhyne’s projection design is successful in adding mood and place, as is Anthony Pearson’s lighting design, Jane Shaw’s sound design and Dane Laffrey’s minimalistic set and costume design.