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Review: Meg Flather Premieres New Play HOLD ON TIGHT at United Solo Theatre Festival

Review: Meg Flather Premieres New Play HOLD ON TIGHT at United Solo Theatre Festival

The new show will also play the NEW YORK THEATER FESTIVAL on October 27, 29, and 30.

They say that a writer should write what they know. That hasn't been advice that singer-songwriter Meg Flather has needed to hear for some time now; the songs that the award-winner pens always originate from a personal place, as evidenced last year with the release of her song "Inside," which Flather wrote during the quarantine of 2020. With her newest creation, HOLD ON TIGHT. Meg Flather has taken her work as a writer and as a storyteller to a whole new level - a personal one, of course, and one that informs not only a new solo play but an accompanying book, both of which came into the light last week.

Hold On Tight had its premiere on October 8th at the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street, inside of the Theater Row complex, and a full house of theatergoers were treated to what ranks as the best production this writer has ever seen at United Solo, billed as The World's Largest Solo Theatre Festival. This hour-long musical play that Flather has crafted details her life as a caregiver - not a role that she chose, but one that was thrust upon her, and one that she has cherished.

Starting with the "beautiful boys" that Meg Flather met during her youthful days in New York City, working as a shopgirl and watching all of her gay besties waste away and die during the AIDS crisis, transitioning to a daughter helping her mother care for her cancer-stricken father, and ending up as full-time caregiver to that mother, Becky, who developed dementia, Meg's play tells, humorously, honestly, and with great empathy, what her experience as a caregiver has been like. And that story is a beautiful one, filled with ups and downs, lessons and learning, levity found in strange places, fear originating from real ones, and many moments worth remembering and sharing. It is a story from which every person can take something, whether they have been a caregiver, will be a caregiver, or never find themselves in a position to do what Meg has done. That is because, whatever the dominant theme in Meg's solo show, the underlying thread is about relationships, and that is where all good stories begin and end.

Hold On Tight was written entirely by Meg Flather, and it shows in every aspect her performance, a solid one being delivered by an actor who clearly knows what she is doing. In a small black box theater (well, actually, it's more like a gray box theater) on Saturday night, with her devoted Musical Director Tracy Stark right by her side (literally - the piano is prominently positioned downstage right), Meg spoke directly to her audience, which isn't new for Meg, one of the cabaret industry's most industrious and respected performers. The conversation had a different vibe than it usually does, though, because this is a piece of theater being performed in a theater - there are no waiters serving food and drinks, no casual air about the proceedings, and absolutely no chance that an audience member might talk back to the stage, a regular occurrence in a nightclub. Director Lennie Watts (showing that his talents reach beyond his nightclub work) has deftly guided Meg, helping her to find that balance between the performance style more regularly applied to her work and this more theatrical one, where there is a fourth wall, only it's more of a scrim - the audience is there, but there to listen, not to participate. Even though there are times when Flather may speak directly to a person, times when she may look right into a pair of eyes, this is a play and the theatricality must present in a way that is both formal and comfortable, in order to keep the audience connected but not so connected that anyone feels a compulsion to enter the conversation, from their seat. It's a fine line they are walking, and team Flather succeeds admirably.

And it is a pleasure to just sit and listen because Meg's play is a good one, and her skills as a storyteller are beyond reproach. She is connected to every moment, to each sentence spoken or sung, and to more than just the story she is telling - she is connected to the lessons to be imparted in that story, not a new one, by the way. Many people watched the beautiful boys die. Many people have lost a parent to cancer. Many people have lost a parent to dementia. Some have, just like Meg, done all three. But that doesn't make her story rote or ordinary, it makes it resonant. Meg's take on the happenings of her life is what makes the play special... that, and her writing. Flather is a wordsmith - she has a gift for forming the sentences in ways economic that still give a visceral expression of the tale being told. Remember, this is a play in a solo show festival - these festivals have time limit restrictions. That is a blessing, by the way. Often, in a cabaret room, an artist goes on, ad nauseum, until they have kept an audience for a full ninety minutes with their self-indulgence. Hold On Tight starts on time, it stops on time, it tells a proper story, and it makes a person laugh and cry a little, depending on how they, personally, accept the play. But have no fear because even though an entire hour of music and dialogue about death doesn't sound like a good time, thanks to Flather's natural optimism and always-present sense of humor, it isn't a good time, it's a great time. This poet laureate of the cabaret industry has achieved something here that could, easily, be worked into the programming of any solo show outfit, any university, library, or community center, any small theater company, and, yes, even any cabaret room. Hold On Tight is not a cabaret show, it's a play, it's a piece of theater, but theater can be performed anywhere that there is an open space for a person to stand and tell their story, and an audience with a space to observe. This is theater worthy of being observed, in any venue.

During her later years, Carrie Fisher often said, "Take your broken heart and make it into art." Meg Flather had a broken heart after her mom Becky died. Now she has art. And this writer whose mother-in-law died of cancer and whose own beloved mother lives with dementia could not, more wholeheartedly or with more conviction, recommend seeing HOLD ON TIGHT, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.

Learn more about the UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL at their website HERE.

HOLD ON TIGHT will play the NEW YORK THEATER FESTIVAL on October 27, 29, and 30. For reservations visit the NYTF website HERE.

THIS is the Meg Flather website.

Review: Meg Flather Premieres New Play HOLD ON TIGHT at United Solo Theatre Festival

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