No one is going to be surprised when I saw that Fringe veteran Allegra Lingo puts on a great solo storytelling show. But she doesn’t immediately break out the music stand and script to read from. Happenstanced is Lingo’s first show since her 2014 Fringe hit The Genealogy of Happenstance, which recounted the story of Allegra and wife Amy’s quest to have a child. And now they have that child. Matilda. And Matilda is our prologue.
“I thought ninjas were coming to kill me. In a townhouse. In Minnetonka.”
Allegra shows Matilda around the theater, then they descend into the Rarig X and root around in the toys and crayons for a minute or two. Then Allegra introduces Matilda to her extended theater family, the audience, “These people have been waiting a long time to meet you.” But soon enough it’s time for the handoff to mother Amy, and the whole audience spontaneously begins to wave goodbye as Matilda makes her exit. (And dammit, I didn’t cry through the entire show, but I just cried typing that.) “You guys are witnessing something very rare right now. I am out of earshot of Matilda. It’s been a wild last 19 months, y’all.”
“Are you ready to see the castle?”
Allegra then proceeds to get out that music stand and script and present to us six short pieces from a wealth of material that has been the first year or so of parenthood. There’s the unconventional birth, and the excursions to Walt Disney World. There’s the unexpected identity struggles involved with not being the birth mother - and thus a bottle and not a breast feeder, or feeling the need to demur when people mention “She has your eyes” or “your height.” There’s the strange sleep habits of children, hoarding things around themselves, a behavior from Allegra’s past she sees reflected in her daughter. And there’s grappling with how dark the world can sometimes seem, and here you are trying to raise another human being to be part of it.
“She doesn’t know how to deal with celebrity babies.”
I’m only a godfather myself, but I’m struck by the truth of a quote that floats around which says, "To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Allegra Lingo’s still a great storyteller. Parenthood is just ripping away another layer of artifice that Lingo has always had between her and her audience. She’s not any more sentimental now than she was before. She’s just as clear-eyed, just as much the wry observer of life’s absurdities. But her heart’s walking around outside her body now. She can’t hide anything from us anymore. On some level, that must be terrifying. But man, is it making her a better storyteller.
5 stars - Very Highly Recommended