I’d like to tell you a story.
This is a tale of two childhood friends, Alvin (John Ribeiro-Broomhead) and Thomas (Ian Antsee). Thomas is writing his best friend’s eulogy after Alvin’s recent suicide. Thomas, an acclaimed author, is struggling to encapsulate his friend’s life when Alvin appears to coax him along, and together they take a long stroll down memory lane. Each moment they relive, from their first day of friendship to the trials of teenage bullying, not only provides Thomas with more material but also with more questions. However, what Alvin lacks in simple answers he makes up for in hard truths: that Thomas moved away, that Thomas didn’t do right, until he simply wasn’t there.
As children, they are brought together in a moment of sadness and inseparable in their penchant for adventure. Slowly, the growing pains of adolescents start pushing them apart as Thomas’s future moves forward while Alvin is left behind. Thomas is writing Alvin’s eulogy, struggling to encapsulate his friend’s life, the effect of growing apart causing him to miss so many key plot points in their intersecting tales.
Both actors expertly weave throughout various memories together. One moment from early in their friendship is when Alvin decided to give Thomas a book from his father’s bookstore. However, Alvin is convinced that there is a mysticism to choose a book. In this moment, as they wait for the perfect book to reveal itself, Ribeiro-Broomhead and Antsee blend seamless into their boyish selves. There is wonder in their eyes and a rapidness to their movements that portrays youth at its finest: new, fresh, alive. As their characters grow apart with age, the actors take great care with their physical movement. Ian Antsee’s Thomas appears to grow straighter, slower, seemingly burdened by the growing list of adult responsibilities. He is the manifestation of frustration, trapped doing what he loves yet somehow missing everything else in between. Antsee’s delivery is unapologetically cruel at times, only to be derailed moments later complete grief and confusion. Meanwhile, Ribeiro-Broomhead remains unchanged. Stuck in a sense of child-like naivety, Alvin never loses a wide-eyed sense of wonder and a heartbreaking fragility. Ribeiro-Broomhead’s vocal timbre echoes this in its uncanny ability to demand complete attention through its softness.
I’d like to tell you another story.
It is one of an audience of mostly college age students watching a musical on a Sunday night. There is laughter along the way, at the jovial play of children and entrances into high school. Slowly, the joy turns into collective cringes as Thomas pulls away from Alvin, because he is too busy. He frequently repeats that there is simply too much for him to do, he just doesn’t have time for his friend. Each time he says it I can’t help but feel the collectively shaky intake of breaths around me in an audience of overachievers on a campus where “busy” is the biggest buzz word.
Flash forward to the end of the show, the end of the run. Silence, a few sniffles, and not too many dry eyes. The performances were tough and personal, the music affecting, the direction clear and fluid. It is a work that deserves its standing ovation, and appeared to stain everyone who saw it. A friend of mine immediately left the theater to call a friend she hadn’t spoken to in months. Another has since vowed to make more time for his friends than for his PSETs.
The Story of My Life served as a constant reminder that life is a series of stories. They weave and bob and intersect. In the moment, you never know which pieces will match and which will unravel. It is hard to catch memories before they are made, and it is even more difficult to know which ones to hold onto before they are lost in the wind.
A kind, thoughtful work: that is the type of show The Story of My Life was. Gone too soon in a moment we might have missed. But, a long-lasting and cherished memory for all those who saw it.