By Nadia Asencio
Alan Altschuler’s “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” promises a comedic and “poignant saga” about a man who delves into his past relationships in order to understand why his wife left him. There are three main characters: Alan, Rick, and Bigfoot. Mr. Altschuler transitions from one personality to another by switching hats and accents. Alan, an older gentleman dressed in a nondescript button-down and slacks, proclaims his passion for “Nancy,” the love of his life, and a love lost. Rick is confused and irate after returning from the races to an empty house, deducing from the smell that Bigfoot has taken off with his wife, his dog, and his car. Bigfoot is a lecherous personality, more predator than seducer.
Mr. Altschuler shifts fitfully and dispassionately between the characters without clarifying the connection between Alan and Rick. He further muddles the narrative by chronicling Alan’s romantic past from his junior high years through college in vignettes peppered intermittingly; it’s hard enough to keep track of the characters, let alone what decade we’re in. Tellingly, all of Alan’s previous love interests are named “Nancy,” and none are developed past one dimension. It’s difficult to believe that Alan is as bereft as he claims when he lacks the depth to perceive these women as anything but objects of his desire, interchangeable and easily forgotten, serving as nothing more than landmarks along Alan’s romantic evolution.
Past relationships didn’t end well, but Alan doesn’t seem to have gained any insight into why; and Mr. Altschuler recounts Alan’s romantic history without any of the passions or lessons that may have arisen from it, awkwardly maneuvering the onstage space with a mild ho-hum and shrug of the shoulders that made me wonder if somewhere along the way Mr. Altschuler and director Andrew Borthwick-Leslie had lost their narrative thread.
The one point in the play in which Mr. Altschuler allowed himself to delve ever-so-slightly into the world of emotion is when Alan relates the story about the most formative failed relationship of his life – that with his father. Unfortunately, this moment is fleeting and stops short of any deep revelation. Instead, Mr. Altschuler continues as before, eventually introducing us to the mythical “Bigfoot,” a wicked and sly adversary who threatens the audience with his sexual prowess, promising to take anyone’s wife on a whim. He points directly to an audience member to make his threat. The display was as baffling as it was uncomfortable to witness, bereft of meaning or place in a “poignant saga.”
Solo work is difficult to pull off; no question. The only way around this is for the performer to have a deep emotional connection with the piece, and to be willing to express it. Mr. Altschuler uses the words of short-story writer Ron Carlson to tell his tale, and this may be the problem; the performance is a series of monologues instead of a satisfying “hero’s journey” that might have allowed the audience – and Mr. Altschuler – a morsel of meaningful introspection.
The concept is promising and could work if Mr. Altschuler were willing to truly examine his own experiences and create an emotional landscape onstage; if the various characters and narratives were pulled together by a common objective, and if Mr. Altschuler were a bit more comfortable in his own skin. It’s no wonder Rick’s wife left him for Bigfoot; there was little of substance for her at home.
“Bigfoot Stole My Wife”
Written and Performed by Alan Altschuler
Sept. 15 at 6pm, Sept. 23 at 4pm, Sept. 26 at 9pm
Director: Andrew Borthwick-Leslie
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
NADIA ASENCIO is a first-generation Cuban American playwright, artist, and founder of The Scarlet Harlot Theatre Co. which chronicles the journeys of Hispanic and Black women. Her work can be found at www.nadiaasencio.com. She resides in NYC.