Aspiring to Greatness in “You Were Supposed to Be This Great Thing”

Lead Article, Reviews

By Mikey Miller
 
What is greatness? In “You Were Supposed to Be This Great Thing,” Warren McPherson tells us how he overcame his feelings of low self‑worth, as thrust upon him by himself and others.
 
Mr. McPherson stands alone onstage next to an easel, which contains, written in enormous letters, his list of requirements for being a great person. The first couple of items on this list are informed by his relationship with his father, who picked up and left when Warren was five years old. His family sarcastically nicknamed his father Superdude, after Bart Simpson’s fourth‑grade class’s dead pet hamster. After Superdude’s disappearance, Warren decided that his goals in life ‑ which would ensure his greatness ‑ included becoming a great husband and father.
 
A series of uncomfortably funny and unfortunate events throughout Mr. McPherson’s childhood and adolescence prompted him to add more rules to his “Be Great” list. The list became a self‑imposed, uncompromising moral code. Shortly after Mr. McPherson graduated college ‑ he was an English major at Stanford ‑ he found himself basically jobless, penniless, and friendless, living in his mother’s garage in Portland, Oregon. He had just left a busboy job and a cheating girlfriend across the country in Newport, Rhode Island.
 
Mr. McPherson spent seven years living in his mother’s garage. Although he didn’t fulfill her dreams for him of becoming the president or the pope or a famous surgeon, he found the woman who would become his wife. They had both made it onto a TV game show that quizzed participants on their knowledge of obscure pop culture trivia. Mr. McPherson mused about how wild it was that the random VH1 producer who selected them became unknowingly responsible for a marriage and the existence of two new humans: their children. That same VH1 producer catapulted Mr. McPherson toward his ultimate goal of becoming a great husband and father. As he grew into his role as a dad, though, Mr. McPherson realized that this important job shouldn’t dominate his identity, as he used to believe. He needed more agency and purpose to feel complete.
 
In his 75‑minute show, Mr. McPherson bravely forays into some of our most important existential questions. Am I navigating life the way I should be? Am I a success? Am I great? Unfortunately, according to his mother, Mr. McPherson fell short of greatness. But he accepts her opinion gracefully. He knows that satisfaction with himself and his choices can only come from within.
 
Mr. McPherson is likeable and funny enough. He knows how to command a stage, and his asides and digressions are often very clever. His tale follows the oft‑repeated pattern of being kicked down, only to pick himself back up, and keep trudging on. The trope becomes quite tired and predictable by the end of the performance, which was claustrophobically confined to a tiny space between the large easel and a chair occupied solely by Mr. McPherson’s water bottle. But, in Mr. McPherson’s life, everything seems to happen for a reason.

 
You Were Supposed to Be This Great Thing
Written and Performed by Warren McPherson
Directed by Lynne Duddy and Lawrence Howard
November 7 at 9 PM
Photo: courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Festival
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
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MIKEY MILLER is an actor, writer, and tutor based in Jersey City, NJ. He received his BA in English with a minor in theatre arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Since then, Mikey has acted in off-Broadway and regional productions and worked as a freelance writer for publications such as StageAgent and ShowTickets.
 

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