The Truth: A Tragedy

By Cynthia Hopkins; Directed by DJ Mendel

Cynthia Hopkins in The Truth: A Tragedy at Soho Rep.

BOTTOM LINE: Cynthia Hopkins is a force to be reckoned with.

The Truth: A Tragedy is a one-woman show written and performed by the multitalented Cynthia Hopkins. The show is a 75 minute tribute to Hopkins’ father, exploring the real and imagined landscape of his life through song, dance, video and monologue.

The opening moments of this show comprise some of the most captivating theater I have seen in a while. An audio track begins and the audience hears the recorded voice of a nursing home coordinator enumerating the day’s scheduled activities. Hopkins enters from upstage center and makes an extraordinary, slow-motion cross straight downstage to meet the audience. Her energy is profoundly aligned and her focus is startling as she takes the audience in. She cuts downstage slowly and as she goes she drops random items in her wake. However, as she sheds item after item from within the many folds and layers of her costume, her movement is anything but random. She cares for each prop with extreme precision and drops them in a repeatedly deliberate manner. Only later do we realize that she is using choreography in this opening sequence to describe the deliberate chaos that was so much of who her father was.

Hopkins speaks, sings and dances the searing story of her father’s battle with Parkinson's disease. The story includes her own struggle with the medical profession, her feelings towards her father and her attempt to grapple with loss. The show leaves no theatrical territory unexplored. Faye Driscoll’s choreography is both graceful and jarring as she employs the characteristic jolts, weaving and shaking of a person with Parkinson’s. Driscoll molds effected physicality into several wrenching dance solos for Hopkins for the points in the story where words no longer suffice.

DJ Mendel directs Hopkins through a beautiful, emotionally charged performance, using every nook and cranny of the Soho Rep black box and creating a colorful, fantastical world on stage with props (both real and representative) of the detritus that Hopkins’ father collected. Hopkins portrays a wide array of colorful characters in her father’s life. At points she also embodies her father himself to poignant affect. She masterfully morphs her body and voice over and over again, occasionally hitting ‘neutral’ to perform one of the haunting melodies she composed for the show or to deliver a monologue as herself.

The Truth: A Tragedy is accompanied by an museum exhibit outside of the theater space. Hopkins and museum fabricator Tom Fruin have transformed the lobby and downstairs of Soho Rep into a Wunderkammer of sorts, filled with her father’s curiosities ( a euphamism) collected over a lifetime.

At moments, this raw evening of theater did grate on me as it became a bit too personal and maudlin. When a performer brings personal tragedy to the stage there can be a fine line between art and over-sharing, between artistic expression and the indulgent airing of the proverbial baggage. But for the most part Hopkins and her fantastic team of collaborators take her sincere desire to share this story and shape beautifully molded moment after moment of theater. It takes deep sensitivity and exceptional performance smarts to tread said fine line on stage successfully. Hopkins artfully takes her personal experiences and translates them into a story that is decidedly about one man in particular but which is porous enough to let us all in. Ultimately we all experience the same wonder and beauty that she herself finds in the memory of her father and we follow her lead to excavate remarkable ideas and feelings shrouded in unremarkable trappings.

(The Truth: A Tragedy, plays at Soho Rep, 46 Walker Street, through May 30, 2010. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30pm. Tickets are $30-$40 and can be purchased at $15 student rush tickets are available at the box office. Visit for more show info.)