Giving Up Is Hard To Do/written and performed by Annie Abbott/directed by Joel Zwick/Little Victory Theatre/through March 17
I don't make a habit of reading a press release up front, because I like to be surprised. If someone had told me that I was going to see a one-woman show about an actress' life, my first comment would have been, "Oh, please! What did she overcome? Alcoholism, drug abuse, rape, paternal or spousal abuse?" Such is the content of many one-person shows nowadays, to the point where you just do not wish to be bored to death as you listen to another depressing story. Well, much of Annie Abbott's life has surely not been a bed of roses, but what she did with lemons - she actually did convert them into roses - is not only amazing, but hysterically funny and thoroughly worth experiencing.
Only 70 minutes long, Giving Up Is Hard To Do is Abbott's first written script, and it's very, very good. Her onstage energy is incredible. She talks and moves fast, so you really have to listen cautiously to keep up with her anecdotes which start in present time and then work backwards to her younger days in NYC as an actress, onward to marriage, children and breast cancer and then back once more to the strengths of her childhood and family. One cannot complain about this performer being too slow or too self-indulgent. She is a breath of fresh air who makes her audience at one with her. Most middle-age folk will relate 100%. Abbott plays a bevy of characters under Joel Zwick's fluid direction and never lets down for a split second, making the evening a deliciously engaging and uplifting entertainment.
Actors will love her story about having to learn the dance routines for Stop the World I Want to Get Off within 24 hours on a New York bus full of company dancers. "Finally, normal people!" Her ode to her husband Ron Abbott "a pioneer in search of a prairie", who remained her lifelong companion until his sudden death is loving and admirable. Also delightfully amusing is the anecdote about approaching a beautiful gal, a complete stranger and asking her opinion about whether she, Annie, should be open and tell future prospects about her mastectomy. The answer: a resounding Yes! "Ballsy woman seeks ballsy man!"
It is unfair to give away any more detail. Better to hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, as it's Abbott's life, but I must allude to one more hilarious story that sets the tone of the entire piece. At a commercial audition, for which she had to wear a bikini, what she did with a sock and what resulted... I won't give it away, you'll have to see the show to hear this one. OK, one more! Her delicious observation about how Jewish grandmas, in comparison to messy internet dating, made the best matchmakers. It is this kind of tradition mixed with optimism that makes Giving Up Is Hard To Do shine. It is chock full of beautifully crafted, funny funny stories that are made even funnier by Abbott's fast and straight-faced delivery. She's a cross between Cloris Leachman and Ruth Gordon. Love life to the fullest with a sense of humor, and regardless of what happens, it will love you back! Humor certainly helped Annie Abbott through some tough times. She's a gem. Go see her!