Onstage at the Woolfe Street Playhouse was a folding chair. It might have even been a chair from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, where Staci Swedeen’s adventure began one warm May day in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., an exburb in Westchester County. As Swedeen shared her story, the basis for the one-woman play Pardon Me for Living, the brown folding lawn chair became a hospital bed, an ambulance, a car, and a host of other things. That chair was our anchor as Swedeen told us about a bizarre encounter she had with a rabid raccoon that bit her on the leg.
Removing the fourth wall completely for the next hour and a half, the writer-actress talked to the audience as if we were her best friends. It was an interesting story, told well, with lots of humor, and the use of that lawn chair. Okay. So the lawn chair bothered me. And now I’m going to let it go.
But like all stories our best friends tell, there are moments you want them to just get to the point. Swedeen’s story, though, was about much more than this bite. That pesky little rabid raccoon changed her life. When the wound on her foot became infected and there was a threat she would spend the rest of her life as an amputee, Swedeen began to notice people in wheel chairs, with missing limbs, and assorted other physical disabilities for the first time. She took note of how closed off she’d become to the world, only noticing other’s as they interrupted her forward motion. As much as she wanted to turn her mind off to the constant noise of lost dreams and failures and fears, she learned life didn’t shut off, there might not be a reason for everything that happens, and if you will open your heart up, someone will come in and help you take care of it.
And you just might get a good story or two out of it.