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Tripping on Life

A well-observed visit to the hippy sixties and its drug-addled characters.

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Lin Shaye in a scene from her one-woman show, “Tripping on Life” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Robert Galinsky)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Lin Shaye is a fine actress who has lived a colorful life, a portion of which provides the material for her one-woman show, Tripping on Life, an ode to her hippy past.

Set in the late sixties, Tripping, written in the form of a screenplay read by Shaye enacting every role, tells the drug-addled tale of her love affair and marriage to the beautiful, free-wheeling Marshall, for whom she left a stable, middle-class life in Detroit.

Tripping begins with the wind rushing through Shaye’s hair as she races down the California Route One upon a motorcycle.  It is just hours after getting married and the motorcycle is actually on the back of a truck driven by Marshall.  They are both high—she on speed and he on pot—and are stopped by the Highway Patrol because of his erratic driving.

Marshall’s truck cabin is full of pot smoke which is quite evident as the two Keystone Kops investigate.  As a wedding present the cops let them go, but make Shaye join her husband in the front rather than ride the wind on her not very tethered chopper.

From there the play runs backward, first, a few hours earlier at the actual wedding where Shaye’s brother and mother vent at the two lovebirds.

Lin Shaye in a scene from her one-woman show, “Tripping on Life” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Robert Galinsky)

Then the scenario travels two months further back in time, to the slapdash home Shaye and Marshall share with two guys, Lenny and Jim, who like to romp around stark naked, shocking Shaye’s Dad who tries to persuade her to come home.  She refuses, declaring her undying love for Marshall.

When the play shoots forward six months from the first scene, the two honeymooners are living in San Francisco with another ragtag family.  Shaye’s life is jolted by a totally unforeseen event which brings her to a sweet vision of how she and Marshall met as students at the University of Michigan, two actors in a college production of Bye Bye Birdie.

The language of Tripping on Life is purposely vulgar and scatological, full of hippy jargon that now sounds dated rather than colorful.  All the f-words and pig-cops become tiresome after a while.

Virtually all the characters are constantly high on one drug or another.  They come across as goofy two-dimensional jesters.  Even the “straight” characters—the cops, Shaye’s parents and siblings—are walking clichés.

Shaye tells of a pot and drug-addicted couple who are totally disgusting parents to a two year old.  That’s just not acceptable even though it is told as a funny hippy-dippy anecdote.

Lin Shaye in a scene from her one-woman show, “Tripping on Life” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Robert Galinsky)

Even so, Shaye is a great storyteller, her narration a perfect substitute for the absent camera.  However, she is a poor developer of characters.  Her insights end with naming the drugs each character takes.  None of the characters seem to have any means of support, however colorful they are.

Behind Shaye eerie, surreal, psychedelic globs of color constantly in motion are projected onto the back wall, the kind of decoration used frequently in rock concerts and even by classical musicians who wanted to be “with it.” These decorative touches are provided by Joshua White of The Joshua Light Show.

Lee Landey’s sound design and bits of original music add dimension to Shaye’s period piece.

Director Robert Galinsky keeps the pace up and the show comes in at a comfortable 75 minutes.

Tripping on Life (through October 8, 2023)

Theatre Row/Theatre 2, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-714-2442 ext. 45 or visit

Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (510 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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