Tragic Magic~A Story of Recovery is the autobiographical tale of Sigute Miller's journey through addiction and the transformation of sobriety. With development and direction by Beth Bornstein Dunnington, the story combines Miller's Lithuanian background with poems and tales by her late brother to create a divine viewing experience. While the piece struggled in pacing and some technical execution, the wisdom and spiritual insights within the vulnerable storytelling left an impact.
The play began with flashing blue and red lights accompanied by police sirens. Miller from backstage repeated, "Please, officer, don't take away my daughter." Then, Miller sat on a stool, struggling to roll her Rs, in a flashback from her childhood. She shared small pieces of her upbringing and explained her early introduction to the "dragon" of addiction. Addiction is often hereditary and unfortunately, alcoholism took hold of Miller and her brother. As she regaled the audience with tales of her young adulthood, she dropped in beautiful poetry written by her brother. Sadly, he passed away after driving drunk at the age of 24. His death didn't wake Miller from her addiction. In fact, she didn't find recovery until she was in her late 40s, two years after reaching her personal rock bottom. Miller's rock bottom came in the form of driving drunk with her child in the car and then a police officer pulling them over, as foreshadowed in the play's opening moments. After entering recovery, Miller embraced spirituality fully. She even attended a meditation retreat in India. After many years of soul searching, healing and recovery, Miller recognized her need to feel seen and to fulfill this need within herself.
This solo play utilized lighting, projection and the set to tell the story. Miller herself called "blackout" a clever metatextual cue" before every blackout. She moved throughout the space, taking up different quadrants for different locations in her story. Early on, it is noticeable that Miller takes a stool with her whenever she moves. At first, I didn't think anything of it but later noticed she moved the stool even when she didn't need it to sit on, even when she could have done so during the blackout. This subtle blocking existed to symbolize Miller's shackles of addiction. The stool represents the alcoholism she carried around for a large chunk of her life. I then noticed that when she entered recovery, Miller abandoned the stool and now moved freely, no longer tied down. While I found these additions served the story, the cues at times deflected from the story. In moments of vulnerability, the attention moves away from Miller to the projection screen and the indecipherable image. At other times, the projections cut out early and then came back on, or both the projections and lighting came a full beat too early or late. In such an intimate piece, it is distracting to see these theatrical elements take away from the performer's authenticity.
Fitting an entire life into an hour-long solo show is a challenging feat. While Miller succeeds in completing this feat, the pacing sometimes needs to be faster. The show lacked a sense of urgency; it felt as though there was no driving throughline. If the pacing and the cues were fixed, the show would fully capture the attention of audiences of all kinds.
Tragic Magic ~ A Story of Recovery is a beautiful tribute to the writer, the performer's brother, and her personal strength. Inspiring and heartfelt, this show is impactful for audiences with addiction experience and without.
“Tragic Magic~A Story of Recovery”
Written and Performed by Sigute Miller Directed by Beth Bornstein Dunnington
November 10, 2022 https://unitedsolo.org/tragic-magic-a-story-of-recovery/
The 13th United Solo Festival
October 4- November 20, 2022
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
Carmen is a Brooklyn-based writer and actor, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, currently based in Brooklyn. They have worked with prominent theaters off-Broadway and regionally. Their mission is to use play to create artful representation by and for underrepresented communities. In addition to theatre, Carmen holds love in their heart for drag performance, crafting, a good memoir and their cats. www.carmenburbridge.info