By Dana Zhang
Mike Folie tells his story in pauses and starts, as though he is having a simple, intimate conversation with you. As he finishes one anecdote, he looks down in contemplation, then snaps to attention again and abruptly begins another. As described by Mr. Folie himself, this story is a mosaic whose pieces gradually fall into place. His narrative switches between events that preceded and followed his wife’s death.
The writing has just enough detail to conjure the characters in the audience’s minds. There’s Carla, who believes that when a deer comes to eat a young tree that sprouted from an acorn, that is a sign from Mr. Folie’s wife. At one point, he becomes convinced of this, too. There’s Rebecca, Mr. Folie’s daughter, who resembles him more than she does her mother. She calls the women he dates “crazy bitches,” and accuses him of dating them out of a desire to save them in a way that he wasn’t able to save his wife.
We come to know Mr. Folie’s late wife as a person who hated doctors, and who was adept at having the last word. He says that in their big arguments, he was usually right and she was wrong, while in their smaller, more frequent arguments, it was the other way around. She was a schoolteacher with an old-fashioned name.
Mr. Folie’s demeanor—and the show’s tone—is one of bemusement, not unlike the cotton-candy, underwater state of mind in which Mr. Folie found himself during the months after his wife’s death. The story moves forward, doubles back, drifting between time periods, like a person’s mind fighting itself as it tries to come to terms with a new reality. A reality in which Mr. Folie’s cat talks. In which a voice in his head screams that she is dead every morning. Still, he cannot fully comprehend. He feels grief in the form of a 50-pound cat on his chest, but what does it really mean that someone is dead?
For years after her death, Mr. Folie received “visitations” from her in his dreams. Mr. Folie says that her death itself was tragic and horrible, but he cannot disclose the details. The visitations were confusing and their meanings ambiguous, though perhaps they were indications that Mr. Folie had finally accepted her passing. His delivery feels natural, perhaps because he’s so often turned over the events in his mind. Through his performance, the memories of his wife come alive and embed themselves in the minds of the audience.
During most of the play, Mr. Folie calls her “my dead wife” or variations thereof, but towards the end, he gifts us the knowledge of her name. This performance is warm in its occasional humor, arresting in Mr. Folie’s vulnerability, and in the end, sobering in the way he describes his marriage to his second wife, Stephanie: the ghosts of their dead spouses are always present, and welcome.
“My Dead Wife”
Written and Performed by Mike Folie
Sept. 14 at 7:30pm, Sept. 16 at 4pm, Nov. 4 at 7:30pm
Director: Frank Licato
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DANA ZHANG is a multimedia journalist versed in editorial, photography, and video editing. She writes about pop culture, the performing arts industry, and the human experience. Zhang graduated from New York University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned at Newsweek Media for a year while in university. Zhang is also an avid gamer and dancer.