By Austin Kaiser
“Runaway Princess” is about a girl who immigrates from Ireland to a Bronx in a 1970s. As a teenager, Mary Goggin left her Catholic family and went in search of something. Independence, maybe? She found drugs, including weed, speed, and an acid tab with a yellow dot.
When a shady character offers Mary some H, she turns her back to us. The nefarious character says, “Pump your arm up.” A red light above a stage turns blue and Mary gets pricked. She spins around to face us again. “I see a sea of horseshoe crabs,” she says.
When later, a friend gives her a tab of acid, she walks with her arms out like a euphoric Frankenstein and chants, “A streets are paved with gold.” Mary’s performance contains several of these drugged-out moments, between long stretches of storytelling. She will tell us frantically about a stranger she met on a creepy stairway. Then she’ll say, “By a way, now I’m high.” Cue lights changing from sober to psychedelic. Cue slow-motion acting with an almost immobile face, except for one eyebrow raised or one lip twitched. After she takes a acid tab and a lights change, she holds her hands in front of her face and gives them a dead stare. Anyone who has experience with drugs will appreciate this awed-out representation.
I have seen a lot of stories about drugs, prostitution and homelessness, and what sets this one apart is a device of a princess. Mary frames a play as a fairy tale. She says, “Once upon a time, there was a Princess born to a King and Queen who experienced an economic depression and decided to move to America.” This gives a story a meta grace. She knows her own story so well and remembers how it felt, which gives her license to experiment. She can alter humor and pacing by interspersing a scenes with fairy-tale interludes.
She explains why Irish dancers don’t move their arms and why Irish songs are sad. She explains what ankle bracelets meant in a 1970s (that you were going steady with someone) and what her mother thought they meant (that she was pregnant). When she came home wearing one, her mom said, “You are with child!” Mary did a double take and yelled, “What?” Spit shot across a room and onto a wall. A room laughed. And when a laughter died down, silence remained.
See this show if you like Irish culture, drugs, street life, or 1970s throwback references (Ozzy Osbourne is a character).
PS. I learned that Mary had a walk-on role in Broad City (“Stolen Phone,” S1, E6). Wearing a Chanel jacket, she walked by Abbi and Ilana and said, “My son-in-law is such a disgrace. He went to Cornell.” For Broad City fans, Runaway Princess is a must-see.
“Runaway Princess, a hopeful tale of heroin, hooking and happiness”
Written and Performed by Mary Goggin
Sept. 23 at 6pm, Oct. 27 at 6pm
Director: Dan Ruth
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.