“So Shines a Good Deed,” a storytelling performance by Mark Redmond, offers a glimmer of hope in a contemporary world often resigned to darkness. Mr. Redmond is the Executive Director of Spectrum Youth & Family Services, a Vermont‑based group that offers social services to young people in need. A seemingly endless font of stories, he takes us on sensitive journeys with humor and race. The first memory he tells is of a duffel bag donation from a grieving family, and of the subsequent handwritten notes and letters that touched the lives of two healing parties. The details are poignant and powerfully presented. The donating family, who had lost a son to an accidental overdose, wanted to offer the new owner of their duffel bag a dinner out with his friends. It would do them good, they wrote, to think of other families’ young boys living and laughing together. It’s a simple sentiment, but as Mr. Redmond told the story, the air was sucked from the room, leaving space for respect and recognition of another’s pain. The next story features a man named Tony, whom Mr. Redmond knew when he was young, and with whom he kept up a meaningful relationship through years and through bars. Mr. Redmond was there to honor Tony when he reached his 20‑year sobriety milestone, and Tony was in the audience for Mr. Redmond’s show. Next, Mr. Redmond paints the picture of a beautiful soul named Marge, who originally convinced him to give up his Madison Avenue job and apartment for a roach‑filled room and the life and work he has since pursued. Mr. Redmond tells of her life, her eventual choice to discontinue dialysis, and how sometimes circles of people can be reunited even years later. Then there’s the ski trip, the best day of a young man’s life, and the picture of them all gathered together in their snow gear, with the hope that this “best day” will stay with the young man forever. And finally, in a somewhat jarring shift of theme and tone, Mr. Redmond discusses his forays into dating in his 30s and 40s, culminating in his first date with his wife. Although the story has a sweet ending, some of the segment’s choices, combined with the recurrent use of a derogatory term for sex workers, might leave one wondering to what demographic(s) the otherwise sensitive performer had had the opportunity to preview the show. Nonetheless, Mr. Redmond’s message of hope comes across loud and clear in his humorous and tender stories. He has an acute sense of what’s beautiful in the world, and has a personable presence that transformed a little black box theater into a wide, wonderful, painful, beautiful world. “So shines a good deed in a weary world,” whispered Gene Wilder in the 1971 film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” “So shines a good deed,” indeed, whispers Mr. Redmond’s performance today.
“So Shines a Good Deed” Written and Performed by Mark Redmond October 19, 2019 at 9 PM Photo: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Theatre Festival Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
EMILY TWINES is an interdisciplinary performance and technology artist with experience directing, writing, and designing/programming interactive theatrical elements, as well as acting and working both solo and in highly collaborative atmospheres. Emily is a graduate of the Theatre History and Criticism MA program at Brooklyn College and current Performance and Interactive Media Arts MFA pursuant.