Anyone familiar with 12-Step programs knows the term “qualification.” At meetings featuring a speaker, the “qualifier” has the floor longer than those who “share” their troubled past for only a few minutes. It could easier be claimed that in Accidentally Brave, her monologue at DR2, Maddie Corman could easily pass for giving an especially long qualification, one that would fill an entire 90-minute meeting. Moreover, during the solo presentation, her title confers a piercingly apt description of qualifications.
That’s as precise a definition as might be desired of the bravery with which those—whether qualifying or sharing—are telling their stories. They’ve reached the point where they bravely recite their histories as a consequence of having accidentally fallen into real as well as psychological difficulties. In order to go about recovering from the depths to which their individual situations have taken them, they talk.
Curiously, psychoanalysis has often been termed “the talking cure.” But so, it could be argued, is 12-Step speaking. For many participants, their addictions (for want of a better word)—have been severely debilitating. In the vernacular, they’ve bottomed out. For others—those attending Al-Anon meetings, for instance—a relationship with an addict (for want of a better word) has propelled them into a terrifying abyss.
Corman belongs in the latter group and announces as much shortly after she starts, immediately confessing that she isn’t addressing the audience when she’s faced and surmounted a problem. She insists she’s unfolding her unhappy tale while she’s still in its tenacious thrall.
Immediately it should be noted that it’s one thing to spill her story in a meeting where, presumably, others present can, and will, empathize. It’s quite a different thing to address an audience not necessarily so disposed.
As a result, she impresses as even braver, although she says at the start she’s repeating her story for the benefit of anyone who’s listening and might also be suffering from the same predicament or from a different but equally compromised condition. Nonetheless, there’s no denying her presence has to be a continuation of the therapeutic actions she’s been taking.
So now to what Corman—a movie and television performer who refers to herself as “well-known-ish”—has urgently to say: On July 29, 2015, while driving from her Brooklyn home to a television shoot, she received a frantic call. Her daughter (she also has twin boys) informed her that her husband was being arrested. The charges were his use, as well as dissemination, of child pornography.
In those seconds her life was upended. How it was overwhelmed and the stages through which she traveled towards complete recovery—not yet reaching that elusive destination—follow. She refers to it as a “journey,” although the word is hardly out of her mouth when she admits she doesn’t like it. And indeed, “journey” in these contexts has become an irksome cliché.
Corman recounts the hours, days, weeks, months and years that follow through which she has hated and loved her husband, visited him at his Arizona rehab, worries about her children’s reactions and well-being, and listened to the often-conflicting advice of well-meaning friends as well as to their barely veiled censure.
From the beginning, she asserts she is only recalling her side of the horrible unfinished episode. She is not relaying her children’s experiences, nor is she reporting on her husband’s perspective. Indeed, she never mentions his name, although she does say that in the early hours of the revelation she hoped nothing of the event would leak out, only to discover that merely Googling her name brought up news accounts including his photograph.
Though there’s a comfortable rolling-chair on Jo Winiarski’s inviting set, Corman doesn’t remain sedentary. Under Kristin Hanggi’s direction, she’s up and down, back and forth, depressed and less often elated—as myriad images flash on a curved upstage wall (Elaine J. McCarthy’s projection design).
As she repeats more than once, Corman wants to pass along lessons she’s learned, often handing out tips for the similarly troubled among her audience. But there’s no mistaking that she’s continuing to talk to herself, to buck herself up, to face her irreversibly skewed world. She may have been accidentally brave before, but there’s no missing that she’s deliberately brave now. Good on her.
Accidentally Brave opened March 25, 2019, at DR2 Theatre and runs through July 14. Tickets and information: accidentallybrave.com