Divorce is never a funny thing, but when Mandy Schmieder was faced with the disintegration of her marriage, she decided to write a one-woman comedy about it. Although the end result is deeply personal and at times feels something like a shrink session, Schmieder has succeeded in creating a humor-filled yet thought-provoking show about relationships.
Schmieder, a College of Charleston graduate now living in New York, plays nine different characters that represent different steps in her journey to figuring out whether or not to end her relationship with a man who loves her. The wacky bunch adds a big dose of humor to the heart-breaking decision while bringing to light Schmieder’s deepest doubts and insecurities.
Separation Anxiety starts with a drill instructor/trainer who seems like a scary hybrid of Jillian Michaels and Jackie Warner. Between bragging about her lesbian escapades, she coaches Schmieder to make the jump both literally, out of a helicopter, and figuratively, out of an unhappy relationship. From there, we meet a baby-crazed former babysitter, Schmieder’s military father and pill-pushing mother, an oversexed police officer, a know-it-all friend, and Paula Deen herself, “drunk as a skunk and horny as the dickens.” Some of their roles are obvious in their intent; for example, the babysitter represents Schmieder’s fear of not having children. Other’s aren’t as clear — I’ll admit I’m still trying to figure out exactly why Paula Deen made an appearance.
The final character we see in Separation Anxiety isn’t a character at all. As the house lights go up, Schmieder stands center stage and reacts to a statement from her father that life isn’t like a movie. She earnestly talks about how hard it was to decide to give up her husband, home, and stability. It’s a bold move from Schmieder, and though turning on the lights makes her seem even more vulnerable and real, it also makes the audience feel more connected with her and invested in her plight. It’s admittedly jarring when shit gets so real at a comedy show, and a few folks in the audience weren’t having it — including some drunk girls in the front row that wouldn’t stop laughing throughout that final, serious scene.
If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted comedy show, this isn’t it. At its core, Separation Anxiety deals with dark issues like insecurity, dependence, and the loss of love. But through her collection of crazy characters, Schmieder manages to make the journey of self-realization an entertaining and often funny one. It’s hard to watch at times, but like Schmieder, you’ll likely leave the show with a smiling face.