Written and Performed by Lisa Danielle Buch; Directed by Ben Stockman
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 10.28.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Ken Kaissar on 10.23.18
Lisa Danielle Buch in Simple Math. Photo by Michaela Chilenski.
BOTTOM LINE: A one-woman show that walks us through the development of a sexually abusive relationship over the course of three years.
As is the case with many accounts of sexual abuse, Lisa Danielle Buch’s story is harrowing. She tells it well, using a coming-of-age structure to make us understand why it was impossible for her to avoid the traps of exploitation, and why she inevitably blames herself for her own misfortune. The self-loathing that results from her experience is perhaps the most painful part of her narrative.
When Buch graduates from college with a psychology degree, she is advised that she should go to graduate school if she wants a well-paying job in her field. Instead, she opts to gain real-life experience through an apprenticeship to an acting teacher. She performs menial office work in exchange for acting, voice, and dance training. It’s not hard to predict that this mentorship will turn toxic, but what makes the show particularly unnerving is the time that Buch takes in building the narrative. She develops the relationship with her mentor so meticulously, giving us the opportunity to appreciate the intricate psychological web that her perpetrator spins in order to trap his victim.
Simple Math is a play-by-play account in which a man invests three years of his life to cultivate the psychological vulnerability necessary to maneuver his victim. By the end, he effectively convinces her that she is the one who is manipulating and taking advantage of the situation. Buch is convinced to write her perpetrator a letter of apology taking responsibility for the whole saga. As if the sexual abuse is not tragic enough, the psychological damage that is thrust on the victim is insidious.
Under the direction of Ben Stockman, Buch holds our attention for the entire sixty-minute performance, which goes by like a blur. Frank G. Schiro’s original music is haunting, and is performed live by violinist Lauren Wright and percussionist Jessica Tsang. The music is so well coordinated with the narration that it almost feels as if it is in dialogue with Buch’s performance.
Buch has a self-proclaimed passion for math, and she breaks down her experience into a series of equations. While I enjoyed watching Buch express her life lessons in the form of algebra, I wasn’t always able to follow how her experience is represented by mathematics. But the calculations prevent the story from devolving into maudlin sentimentality or raw histrionics. Buch figures out how to tell her story in a way that is instructive to the audience and stays clear of a “woe is me” indulgence. This show will be useful for anyone who needs to brush up on their sexual abuse awareness.
(Simple Math: Solving for the Neurobiology of Assault plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 28, 2018. Meet at the YELLOW FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Sat 10/13 at 4:30, Thu 10/18 at 8, Sun 10/21 at 12:15, Fri 10/26 at 4, and Sun 10/28 at 7:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org. For more information visit simplemathshow.wixsite.com.)
Simple Math: Solving for the Neurobiology of Assault is written and performed by Lisa Danielle Buch. Directed by Ben Stockman. Choreographed by Maridee Slater. Music by Frank G. Schiro. Musicians are Lauren Wright and Jessica Tsang.