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BWW Review: Local Classic Repertory's DEADLIFT is Full of Humor and Heart

Local Classic Repertory's virtual play DEADLIFT features Aviva Pressman in her childhood home telling stories of life, death, and love while creating unique works of art.

BWW Review: Local Classic Repertory's DEADLIFT is Full of Humor and Heart
Design by Melissa Campbell

Local Classic Repertory has produced a beautiful new work that is available to audiences online. Deadlift is an autobiographical story of life, death, and unconditional love. The site-specific play, which is filmed to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic, features Aviva Pressman in her childhood home. From there, Pressman gives a virtual tour of the home she grew up in and currently resides. The play is a series of scenes, all linking together the story of her life. While she tells each story, she also creates a new piece of art in each scene.

As you can imagine, growing up in a prominent Jewish family and the granddaughter of a Rabbi has given Pressman an abundance of humorous stories. Pressman tells them with a mischievous twinkle, fondly remembering the best moments from her childhood. At the same time, Pressman literally paints a picture. She also draws with charcoal and designs words and images with calligraphy. Each scene happens in various rooms in her home, starting in the bathroom, then her childhood bedroom, then finally the master bedroom. A quick tour through the hallway and dining area shows the opulent home that is so obviously full of personal history and love.

Since this production actually takes the audience into the home where many of the events happened, it brings a certain reality and immediacy to the stories Pressman tells. Pressman gives an honest and open performance in this production, and she speaks from the heart. Deadlift is full of humor, but it's also very truthful and deeply heart-wrenching at times. The focus of the play is Pressman's relationship with her dad. Pressman spent time caretaking for her father as he was slowly dying of cancer. She undertook this task largely by herself, when she was only 25 years old. Pressman seems to have processed the experience far enough to be able to talk about it. That is no doubt the result of years of healing. That healing process was undoubtedly aided by creating art- a task that fits perfectly well along with the storytelling.

Caretaking and grieving go hand in hand. They're both messy, exhausting, all-encompassing experiences. The process of healing is long and brutal at times, but it has its own beauty. Pressman reveals how strong she is as she talks about her father's death. That strength and resiliency were clearly won through the process of caretaking.

While Deadlift would certainly be beautiful if presented on stage, it's perfect as it is. Director Zandi Carlson has conquered the feat of translation. It's not a movie or even a typical social media video. Deadlift is most assuredly a solo play, a monologue that has been translated into the video age of COVID, and it feels exactly like a play. Pressman's performance is intimate. Looking into the camera gives the viewer the sense that she's looking right at them. Deadlift invites the virtual audience into Pressman's personal experiences as she narrates them, giving the viewer a gripping look into those experiences and the emotions that come with them.

Aviva Pressman is a magnetic storyteller. This memoir serves as a love letter to her family. Through the careful and thoughtful direction of Carlson and LCR's Producing Artistic director Emily Grace Smith, Deadlift is fulfilling and moving, hilarious and honest. It creates the experience of stepping into someone's home and listening to their family stories. It gives a poignant look at the realities of caretaking and how rewarding that otherwise thankless job can truly be. Sharing a burden indeed cuts it in half, and anyone who watches this play, whether they've experienced death personally or not, will feel that burden start to lift.

Deadlift runs until October 4th on Local Classic Repertory's virtual platform. For tickets and access to the show, join their online community at

Follow Local Classic Repertory on Instagram @localclassicrepertory.

Check out Melissa Campbell's Design store on Red Bubble.

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