Great Moments in New York Theater -- Faye Lane’s Beauty Shop Stories
Faye Lane is just such a Southern Lady and her story is onstage in New York City at this very moment.
It would be unfair to not disclose that I have known Faye Lane long enough that I have been lucky in that I have witnessed the gestation of her theatrical autobiography, Beauty Shop Stories. It doesn’t make me biased – it only makes me blessed; for each time that I have seen Faye Lane perform the various versions of this piece, I have been made happy. Each time that the show develops and changes, I miss the parts that have been cut and I love the parts that have been added. I am very much aware that if there were to be a version of the play that told all the stories, it would be too long for public consumption. So I am content to be happy with whatever adventure unfolds when I sit down in my chair, content with the memories of adventures past.
The premise of the show is a simple one: a chubby little girl spends her Texas childhood in her mama’s beauty shop, dreaming of going places and doing things. That is not a unique theme to any of us. Whether we were Chubbsy Ubssy, Tiny Tim, Too Tall MaCall (or any of the other names children call each other) with very rare occasion did anyone who spent time as a child escape the torture from the other children (aptly dubbed by Faye as ‘bastards’ – naturally, with a smile on her face and a crooked halo over her head). So Faye has an ace in the hole before she even walks onstage – an audience with whom she shares common ground.
The other aces in the hole with Faye Lane is her complete and utter charm, her vast sincerity, her soaring singing voice, her breathtaking beauty and the surprises that await us, as we hear what eventually happened to the chubby little girl sitting on the porch of the Parlor wearing a Burger King crown that she had doctored up with glitter and glue. Them’s a lot of Aces in the Hole, brothers and sisters; and she fans them out in front of us as she takes the biggest gamble an artist can take: laying out their life, recreated in their artform, for all to see and judge.
Each time I have ever seen Faye Lane do her autobiographical show, the judges rule in her favour. This last Sunday was no exception. She had the entire near sold out house in the palm of her gentle, dresden, sweet smelling hand. There were gales of laughter, some gasps, some singing along and even spontaneous verbal emissions from audience members unable to contain themselves. I think that’s the sign of a good show; hell, a great show. When your audience feels comfortable enough with you to talk to you during your show, you’ve got them right where you want them: in the palm of your gentle, dresden, sweet smelling hand. Faye is, clearly, loved by the audiences; and I think it goes back to her charm and sincerity. I read a review for this show in which the writer says, point blank, that there are those who would find this trip to the theater saccharine – they WOULD find it saccharine, were it not for Faye’s genuine sincerity. It’s palpable. When she talks to you, you know she is as sweet in real life as she is while telling you these stories about the real life Steel Magnolias who shaped her during her formative years (you also know that there is a bit of bawdy broad hiding behind the devilish grin and twinkling eye that says “who me?”). This is no act, my friends, we have found a Southern Belle who spouts poetic language reminiscent of Truman Capote, sings with a powerful voice as heartfelt as that of Twiggy, captures us with wiles reminiscent of Delta Burke and graces us with beauty reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. Only one thing stops her from being more than just reminiscent of these famous talents: her own absolute inimitability. It is as plain as the Texas on my Face that Faye Lane is unique - she is that rare and wonderful thing: an original
I cannot divulge the secrets of the show. I won’t repeat one single beauty shop story online or tell you what happens to the chubby girl once she grows up and goes glamour queen. That would be unfair to Faye Lane – but, mostly, it would be unfair to anyone who sees the show. The surprises of her true-life story should unfold organically for the audience; everyone deserves a chance to gasp and say “NO WAY!” and “Oh my God” and “I can’t BELIEVE that!” I also won’t critique the songs written except to say that they, clearly, were written especially for Faye Lane (and to have someone write a song for you is not nothing). Even the one song that was not written especially for this show, Carol Hall’s great Bus From Amarillo, seems to have been written especially for Faye Lane.
Faye Lane, though, seems to have been especially written for us. Her presence on this planet (other than making her husband the happiest straight man on earth) seems to be the spreading of joy and delight through her writing and her performing; and at that, she succeeds. Darlin’, she succeeds at it like a Country Fair succeeds at stockin’ the pantry with homemade comfort food. That’s Faye Lane all over the place: home made Southern comfort. She is like light, filling the air and space around us, without our even being aware of it – or how much we need it.
I was amazed at how, with the one simple gesture of flipping back the curtains and stepping through them, she could take a heart as black as mine and make it bright. And that’s only the beginning of the show. What follows is the three course meal.
Simply walking through the curtain was dessert.
You can catch Faye Lane’s Beauty Shop Stories (directed by the masterful Jay Rogers) at La Mama until August 23rd