In “What’s a Girl to Do When It’s Time to Put Down the Drink?,” which opened Wednesday night at the H Street Playhouse, sole actress Tara Handron openly explores the thorny subject of female alcoholism.
Delving into the emotions that alcoholics typically confront, such as frustration, denial, and depression, Handron portrays 20 different individuals with the disease. The play touches on stories of hope, fear, humility, and recovery, taking the audience through the rough and unsteady journey that is recovery from alcoholism.
Handron explained that one of the most difficult tasks of her solo act is keeping all her characters distinct and avoiding caricatures portrayals. Her fears seemed unwarranted in practice, as Handron kept the performance engaging and entertaining with her expressive body language and in-depth portrayal of each character.
“Tara’s passion comes across so strongly,” Laura Brienza (COL ’10), director and producer of the production, said. Brienza worked with Handron last spring to present the play for the first time at Bulldog Alley.
The lights remained dim throughout the play, only shining on the chair that Handron occupied throughout the performance. A backdrop screen displayed the name of each fictionalized character as Handron transitioned roles, helping the audience follow along and stay connected with the flow of the narratives.
The play presented various methods of recovery—both online and in person—as Handron depicted the journey to sobriety. Fictionalized excerpts from online forums and meetings were displayed on a screen and narrated throughout the performance, giving the audience a sense of the community that develops within such recovery groups.
Handron brilliantly balances the seriousness and complexities of alcoholism with comedic levity from time to time. Her characters’ anecdotes provide accounts of humor and embarrassment that thoroughly tickle the audience.
Handron got the idea for the play from research she initially conducted for her thesis requirement in the Communication, Culture & Technology Master’s Degree program at Georgetown University, from which she graduated last May. As part of her research, Handron interviewed female alcoholics of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and ethnicities, uncovering their stories and observing their struggles with alcoholism. She also attended open AA meetings and online discussions for months to glean more insight into the issue.
An actor by trade, Handron wanted to see how she could do something creative with her thesis and give the audience a better feel for what it may be like to sit in an AA meeting.
“I hope they come away thinking that maybe this doesn’t have to be such a touchy subject,” Handron said.
“What’s a Girl to Do When It’s Time to Put Down the Drink?” is playing at the H Street Playhouse February 16-18 and 23-25.