nytheatre.com review by Ross Chappell
August 11, 2008
A model-turned-actress gets injured by a reckless driver and must then navigate "the system" without insurance, without a safety net, and at times without hope. Hogan Gorman's one-woman show Hot Cripple is based on its author's true story and is quite a roller coaster. It's a reasonably good balance of laughing at the absurdity of it all and illuminating the nightmarish journey that awaits those people unlucky enough to have to take it. The writing is sound, if not exceptional, and it tells a potent story of ongoing physical pain, lackadaisical medical treatment, Medicaid misadventures, food stamp survival, and infuriating courtroom drama. It seeks to educate the unaware about just how close many Americans are to the same fate.
Gorman's performance doesn't quite measure up to her material, but she delivers plenty of worthwhile scenes. As someone who spent eight years in the medical field, I'm well aware that the bored nurse, careless doctor, and amorous paramedic aren't exaggerations, but her delivery of them is so caricature-like in places that it robs her script of much of its punch. There were also several times where she stumbled over her words and rather than ad lib or just move on, she broke character to apologize or repeat the stumble as a self-directed jab. However, her portrayal of her mother was entirely different: human, funny, and touching. I can only imagine that it is a perfect representation of the real person. Oddly, she seems most comfortable in the moments of sheer emotional terror or despair. In scenes ranging from a cold realization that she is utterly destitute to wandering toward the Brooklyn Bridge preparing to jump off of it, she's courageous and elicits a gut-wrenching sympathy from her audience. (Were I to ever meet the drunk, DUI-convicted judge who wound up making a mockery of Gorman's case... well, suffice it to say I'd have a few choice words for that judge.)
Isaac Klein's staging is effective and works well with Steve Royal's simple set. Though the pacing is a little sluggish on occasion, the overall direction is a good match for material that requires a steady hand to avoid overdoing either the comedy or the heartache. The best bit of the set design turns out to be the dotted yellow line on the floor that creates a wonderful sense of an NYC street and, quite surprisingly, doesn't serve as a distraction when it isn't being used.
Gorman may just be too close to the material to fully do it justice. It seems counter-intuitive, but it's actually quite common. How well do you think you could perfectly re-enact the painful, and painfully funny, moments of your life over and over? If she can get some consistency in her overall delivery, this piece could really take off. If she finds that she can't, she should pass the piece to another actor and let it take on a life of its own. Sometimes that's the only way to truly do one's own story justice, and this is most definitely a story that needs telling.