“It’s Fine, I’m Fine” Is an Exercise in Humanity

Lead Article, Reviews

By Laura Mullaney
 
Stephanie Everett is more perceptive than most college students I’ve come across. Stephanie Everett also has a brain injury that has deeply impacted the last two years of her life. She knows what it means to struggle, to have something instantly taken away. Within seconds of her performance, she makes astute observations. Theater is, she points out, inherently a bit selfish, because the audience member is treating themselves. This is one of Ms. Everett’s many one‑liners that left me thinking long after I left the theatre, which I attribute to her keen grasp on the world around her. Her brain, even while experiencing trauma, is a gift to those around her.
 
She’s also “a triple threat of oppression”‑black, queer, and female. And the brain injury has certainly contributed to her strife. Ms. Everett, however, carries a deep strength and a resilience. She makes a repetitive motion throughout, in which she raises her arms above her head and moves her head from side to side. It comes at moments when the injury is especially painful. But as I watched her strong arms lift above her head, I believed that it represented power. She holds ownership over her situation in that moment. It’s beautiful.
 
We’re creatures of habit. There’s joy in the consistency of a cup of coffee each morning, taking a class at the same time, getting a meal with someone on the same day once a week. These things were important to Stephanie. So, when her world turned upside down after a concussion prevented her from continuing to play soccer, the lack of routine left her anxious, confused, and hopeless. But Ms. Everett’s struggle never verges on depressing or boring, as stories about hardship sometimes do. Instead, it’s rich with poetry, original music, and even object work. Some of the most poignant moments happen when she engages with an object‑her phone, a bottle of pills, a water bottle. At times, it reads like an acting class exercise. But Ms. Everett is engaged and focused. It’s within the silence and her concentration that she then gets up and reveals profound discoveries. It’s unclear whether these moments of silence are for dramatic effect or a result of her brain injury. Nonetheless, it’s poignant, direct, and we hold our breath, waiting on her every move.
 
If you’re looking for a through‑line in this piece, you won’t find it. It consists of a series of vignettes, and realizations that aren’t necessarily chronological. As Ms. Everett mentions, we’re always searching for the reason behind the reason behind the reason (another human tendency). I think what’s so likeable about this piece is that she’s not actively searching for answers here, or ways to fix her brain. Conversations with her therapist feel largely unproductive (I lost count of the times she asked Stephanie how she felt about her situation). Her parents don’t necessarily understand what she’s going through; she hilariously imitates her French mother, who believes that sticks and water will cure her. It’s not about them, though. In 60 minutes, we see Ms. Everett independently flourish‑creatively and intellectually.
 
At one point, her therapist accuses her of not being in touch with her feelings. I wholeheartedly disagree and hope the therapist got to bear witness to this piece last night. It’s within the slam poetry, the music, and the jokes that the audience sees Stephanie Everett give us a lesson on how to be human, and how to live in the moment. She’s not perfect. In fact, there’s a hilarious moment in the play when she makes a joke and then quickly reveals that she’s “gonna cut that line,” to which the audience laughed. She knows her audience like the back of her hand, even referencing “Hamilton,” and making sure her audience of theatergoers knew that she did.
 
Among Ms. Everett’s lessons, there’s one that I keep coming back to. Towards the end of the play, she tells the audience: “We’re curating ourselves from the moment we’re born.” At first, it sounded like something I’d see on a poster with a floral background. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to embody it the way Stephanie does so eloquently. Maybe each obstacle along the way really is the chance to shift and mold this display that we’re putting out into the world.
 
The final moments of the show don’t end with a grandiose fix or solution to her injury, and that’s fitting for a show that praises process and living in the moment. The message of this show will stick with me for a while, as I continue to curate my own story. Stephanie may have left the soccer world, but I believe that she scored the game‑winning goal with this poignant, incredibly human piece of theatre.

 
It’s Fine, I’m Fine
Written and Performed by Stephanie Everett
October 25 at 9 PM
Photo by Brooke Goldner
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
 
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LAURA MULLANEY is a New-Jersey native who has had a lifelong interest in the performing arts. Previously, she has written for American Theatre Magazine and Limelight, the official newsletter for Actors Theatre of Louisville. Currently, Laura works in arts marketing and communication roles promoting theatre. More at: www.laura-mullaney.com.
 

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