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Review: THERE'S ALWAYS THE HUDSON Premieres to Standing Ovation at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

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Review: THERE'S ALWAYS THE HUDSON Premieres to Standing Ovation at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

The premiere of There's Always the Hudson, on stage now at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, has been a long time coming. In March of 2020, the cast had only been rehearsing for two weeks when the pandemic forced them to postpone the show. In that short time, they clearly formed a bond and a determination to tell this story; each original cast member has returned to bring this hilarious and heart-wrenching show to the stage.

Written by Paola Lázaro and directed by Jess McLeod, There's Always the Hudson follows two friends on an adventure unlike any other. When Lola (played by Lázaro) and T (the incredible Justin Weaks) met in a support group for sexual abuse survivors, they made a pact: if they couldn't find a way to overcome their trauma and live as "normal" adults in time, the two would meet up at 4:30 a.m. and jump off a bridge together into the Hudson River. Tonight is that fateful night, but before their deadline hits, they are determined to exact revenge on anyone who has ever wronged them. "We're going out with a bang," Lola says to T, resolute with righteous anger. So begins a chaotic and coked-up night of vengeance, absurdity, healing, and love.

The friends' furious revenge quest takes them all around the city, from a CrossFit aficionado's Riverdale apartment to the checkout counter at a 7-Eleven. As the night progresses, a bright green digital clock projected on stage counts down to Lola and T's self-imposed deadline. Detailed sets designed by Misha Kachman quickly transition as the plot bounces from one scene to the next, accenting the friends' vibrant energy as they forge an unexpected path toward healing. Together, Lola and T battle with their trauma, their abusers, and how their pasts prevent them from living the lives they desperately want. This friendship is the beating heart of the show, and as Lola and T slowly reveal their full selves to each other, they show just how powerful one's chosen family can be.

Review: THERE'S ALWAYS THE HUDSON Premieres to Standing Ovation at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
(L to R) Paola Lázaro as Lola and Justin Weaks as T in THERE'S ALWAYS THE HUDSON. Photo credit: Teresa Castracane Photography.

The energy Lázaro and Weaks bring to the stage and the skill with which they navigate between the play's many hilarious and harrowing moments-often delivered in a rapid one-two punch-is astounding. There is such incredible depth and complexity to There's Always the Hudson. Lázaro, Weaks, and fellow cast members Elan Zafir, Migs Govea, and Marilyn Torres, embrace the show's raw emotions and somehow make a show about such heavy topics genuinely fun to watch. Together, the cast brings to life Lola and T's touching story of friendship and healing with stunning authenticity, humor, and empathy.

There's Always the Hudson approaches trauma and healing with refreshing frankness. Lola and T are tormented not only by how their trauma impacts their own lives, but also the lives of those around them. "This is our way of giving back to the world," they announce at one point, regarding their revenge plot. "Of making the world safer." More than just revenge, they want peace, they want joy, they want pleasure, and they no longer want to feel the burden of their trauma. There's Always the Hudson understands that the path toward healing is often non-linear and something that cannot be walked alone. As Lola and T slowly realize, they are stronger for the love and support they have found in one another, and it's a beautiful thing to watch.

This opening night, taking place two years later than planned, likely isn't the one the cast and crew had imagined. On Saturday, an audience member experienced a medical emergency and the performance was paused as staff members provided aid. Following the audience member's examination by emergency medical professionals, who cleared him from needing further attention, the show resumed. The cast recovered the performance beautifully, with a couple of mistakes here and there (which I'd argue only added to the show's emotional impact), and There's Always the Hudson was met with an eager and well-deserved standing ovation.

I suggest that anyone interested in seeing There's Always the Hudson carefully considers how the show's themes of sexual abuse, suicide, trauma, and violence may affect them during and after the performance. Despite occasional moments of levity, the show is often difficult to digest, not through any fault of the actors but by nature of the subject matter itself, which is displayed with full candor. The quick-moving plot and lack of intermission also mean the audience doesn't get many chances for a break. That said, this is a uniquely powerful show, one that will stick with me for a long time, and I urge everyone to see it.

There's Always the Hudson runs through June 5, with performances Wednesday through Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm. Purchase tickets and find more details on Open Captioned, ASL Interpreted, and Audio Described performances at woollymammoth.net.

Main photo: (L to R) Justin Weaks as T and Paola Lázaro as Lola in the world premiere of There's Always the Hudson. Photo credit: Teresa Castracane Photography.



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