The Hollywood Fringe Festival was back this year in somewhat hobbled form. After years of seeing as many as two dozen shows, I attended exactly one this year, and that as an after-the-fact recording.
If it was to be just one, though, I’m glad it was Carla Delaney’s solo show Worth It! And I’m even gladder that the show will be available for in-person audiences in October (see below).
Delaney plays more than three dozen characters, including the main one, Casey Donovan, all the minor ones and even inanimate objects. Interspersed into the action are pre-recorded music videos also starring Delaney/Donovan in triplicate. It’s a fast-paced tour de force about the importance of self-esteem, but not in an icky way. Delaney has mastered self-deprecation and uses it to sneak teachable moments into what is ostensibly a conversation with a bank teller.
A bank teller? Why, yes! On her way back from a failed backup singer audition, Casey’s car breaks down and her boyfriend doesn’t respond to her pleas for help. The ATM eats her card and she must go inside what turns out to be the Bank of the Future. There she meets teller Sheila, a combination of woo woo and hardass, who says Carla’s identity has been stolen and her card can’t be returned. She’s trapped in the bank without bus fare home.
Through Bank of the Future records that reveal seminal moments from Casey’s life, Sheila forces Casey to examine her self-image and how it got so low. A series of flashbacks and what-might-have-beens expose Casey’s fear of scarcity, including “The Cabbage Patch Riots of the 1980s.”
The clever and original music videos have excellent production values and often seem perfectly attuned to these Covid times. For example:
This is the ballad of scarcity mentality
Afraid there won’t be enough for little ol’ me
It catches on quick as fire
Makes things seem more than dire
The next thing you know you’ve got an iron heart
You’re pushing a heaped-over shopping cart
Director Jessica Lynn Johnson helps guide Casey and the audience through lessons in supply and demand, epigenetics, the causes of hoarding and ultimately taking control of one’s life—even when that reset button is due to a global pandemic. It’s a voyage of self-discovery that, for all its quixotic elements, feels down-to-earth and real.
Near the end, when Sheila informs Casey “Your balance has been restored,” she could be talking metaphorically as much as about a bank balance. The title song is an anthem all could benefit from believing about themselves.
From Fringe to Binge: Carla Delaney will perform WorthIt! on October 15 at Santa Monica’s sixth annual Binge Free Festival (Oct. 10 through Nov. 9) at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Santa Monica Blvd. To reserve your free tickets, call 310-974-9779 ext. 1, or e-mail [email protected]. There is a municipal parking facility across the street from the Playhouse.