The Lion the Witch and the Walk-in Closet is a solo show written and performed by Kristy Z. Beauvais and directed and developed by Kamakshi Hart. The show pieces together Beauvais's life through jumbles of memory, larger-than-life characters and expressive dance.
Early in the show, Beauvais admits her lack of memories of her past. How does one tell their life story up to the present when they struggle to remember it? Trauma often warps memory in a way that can make creating a linear story impossible. However, this story feels cohesive while, at times, nonlinear. The piece's overall tongue and cheek tone help weave together snippets of the story to make a cohesive narrative. At no point does Beauvais take herself too seriously. At times the butt of her own joke, the script smartly combines comedy and tragedy. For example, the show begins with an audience participation segment in which folks are asked to raise their hand if they grew up in a dysfunctional family and had parents who fought. The writing is witty, touching and creative. The only flaw in the storytelling is the difficulty of following along. At times, the message and throughline felt lost or hard to follow, leaving room for audience confusion. In the show's latter half, Beauvais repeatedly returns to interactions that occurred when she personally trained Cloris Leachmen. While it felt like getting to know Leachmen created the impetus for the show's creation, her repeated inclusion in the show was a missed through line. Either less focus on Leachmen or more emphasis with a greater point would have helped to bring the piece together. Similarly, the jump in time from college to Beauvais's forties felt confusing and jarring. More transitions or filling in the gaps could have served this time jump.
Beauvais's energetic, vibrant performance lights up the whole theater. She jumps, dances, swings and prowls through the space like she owns it. It is impossible to take your eyes off her onstage. Her comedic timing is hilarious and her movement is graceful and evocative. Very early on, it becomes clear Beauvais is an expert performer who thrives on the stage. Her characters are physically and vocally unique; watching her swing between personalities is so fun. For example, she turns the barbiturate Phenobarbital into a southern voice of doubt and insecurity. These over-the-top characterizations help serve the story, tone and overall point of view.
It is easy to feel exhausted just watching Beauvais dance around the stage. And yet, she never breaks a sweat. The piece's visual storytelling really helps pull the whole thing together. Beauvais uses movement to portray story and emotion; it also helps to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Beauvais uses her body to paint a compelling portrait, whether it be routines from the Nutcracker or repeatedly jumping off a box.
The technical elements helped the storytelling and engaged the audience. The lights, in particular, suggested locations, characters and moods. In addition, Hart's use of stage pictures and sound effects displays her expertise in directing. The combination of all these elements creates a moving solo show about the implication of childhood trauma and the life of a performer. Unfortunately, a one-night-only engagement, "The Lion the Witch and the Walk-in Closet," is not a show to miss.
"The Lion the Witch and the Walk-in Closet"
Performed by Kristy Z. Beauvais
Directed by Kamakshi Hart
November 2, 2022
The 13th United Solo Festival
October 4- November 20, 2022 Theatre Row
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
CARMEN BURBRIDGE is a Brooklyn-based actor and writer, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. They have worked with New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse and The Farm Theater. It is her mission to create a convergence of hearts and minds in an effort to expose underrepresented stories and make the world a better place. They are passionate about trauma informed work, laughter, play and community.