Walking with Bubbles, written and performed by Jessica Hendy, is a heartfelt story of a woman who falls in love and experiences trauma due to her husband's mental illness. Her solo show is currently playing at AMT Theatre.
Jessica Hendy is no stranger to the stage; she has performed in hit shows like Cats and Next to Normal—a talented singer and actress with a bright career ahead. No one would have guessed she suffered in silence for years. Hendy begins the show by introducing her son, whom she affectionately calls Bubbles. They're in the park enjoying their usual outing when a homeless man approaches them. She hands him a sandwich, then Bubbles runs up and hugs him. He excitedly greets him, "Hi, Dad!" She tells the audience that she's been living this life for so long and no one knows.
Hendy continues telling her story from the beginning of how they met, fell in love, married, and lived a relatively "normal" life. Her husband, Adam, suffered from seasonal depression or the winter blues, but it was manageable... until it wasn't. Her now ex-husband decides he needs to move to St. Thomas because he can't spend another winter in New York. Hendy is in the middle of a show and rising in her career on Broadway but she bets on love and moves with him. She mentions that one of the best moments from that time was the birth of her son, Beckett. Unfortunately, the island paradise is short-lived and they move to Ohio to be close to Hendy's parents for support.
This is where their story begins to take a turn for the worse. Adam experiences severe manic, psychotic episodes, the last of which he never fully recovers. It is heartbreaking to see the demise of such a healthy and smart man and, even more so, the dissolution of their family. Hendy sings an emotional song that captures the core of her disappointment, "A Man I Used to Know," one of my favorites—beautifully written by Brianna Kothari Barnes. The songs in Walking with Bubbles are perfectly timed to emphasize the emotion Hendy is feeling.
Hendy is a fighter! Although she undergoes a traumatic ordeal lasting over 14 years--she triumphs. She goes to therapy and learns about Adam's condition but more importantly, she learns to take care of herself. She works, saves, and returns to New York City for a new life and to reclaim her career! Unfortunately, he follows her. But at this point, he can't survive the hustle of NYC and quickly becomes homeless. His mental state worsens but Hendy wants him to have a relationship with Bubbles. She tries for years-- a truly commendable act. After a few years, Adam begins treatment and appears to get better but this is short-lived when Adam has an episode and puts Beckett in danger. Hendy realizes at this point that she must put herself and Bubbles first. She stops.
Hendy does a terrific job of telling her story in an intelligent, honest and profound way. She learns that she is not alone in this journey and the fact that she is brave to show audiences her situation speaks volumes of her strength. By the end of the show, many were wiping their tears. It's a bittersweet moment knowing that she and Bubbles had to endure this ordeal, yet it is uplifting to see her sing again!
"Walking with Bubbles"
Written and Performed by Jessica Hendy
Directed by Richard Hess
Music and Lyrics by Brianna Kothari Barnes
Running until September 10, 2023
354 W 45th St New York, NY
Yani Perez, M.F.A, is a poet, playwright, translator, and educator. Her plays have been presented in various theaters in the United States such as La Mama and Yale University as well as internationally in Bogotá, Colombia. She works at IATI Theater, one of the oldest Latinx theaters in NYC. She is currently working on translations of Latinx artists in hopes of introducing them to English-speaking audiences.