“Teeth are spectacular and so is this show!” declares the publicity for A Good Day to Me Not to You. My theater companion and I both suppress a sigh; each of us has a gap where a broken tooth used to be.
As the audience files into their seats, the deep, huge, and cavernous Connelly Theater stares back at it. Empty save for a bench, some wall hangings, knickknacks sitting on a high wainscoting, and a circular cross window, the space seems purposeless and impossible to fill.
The narrator, playwright and actor Lameece Issaq, takes the stage, and begins to tell us the tale of her coming to St. Agnes Residence on NYC’s Upper West Side, where rules and misfit women prevail but no men are allowed, ever. The place is “designed with a grandmother’s touch, if that grandmother had late stage dementia.”
A dental school dropout, fired for stealing impression equipment from her dental lab tech assistant job, “Meecie” (as her nephew calls her) is down on her luck and grateful for the $400 room rental with shared bath (“A week?” “Oh, heavens, no! We aren’t bandits! A month, dear” chimes back Sister Stephanie, one of the nuns in charge of the place).
For the next 70 minutes we learn that our narrator shares care-giving duties with her brother-in-law for her nephew Samm, a role she fell into when the person most dear in her entire life, her younger sister, died during childbirth. We come to know that Meecie wants nothing more than to be a mother herself but has had terrible luck with men. She allowed one of the last men she had sex with, a dental school mate named James, to file her teeth down so she’d be hotter and give him better oral sex. She’s been obsessed with teeth ever since, identifying others by theirs and making countless molds. She even makes molds of her own teeth and reshapes them, as if hoping to recapture the way her bite, or life, once was.
Issaq is very comfortable on stage, in her skin, and she tells an excellent story. Her sense of humor and comic timing are almost impeccable, and her portrayals of the various characters she encounters are distinct, yet artfully subtle. Her vulnerability and connection with herself and the audience is endearing and charismatic. All signs of Issaq’s portrayal as the narrator seem to point to herself, making the dramatic turn at the end of the play even more uncomfortable than it would be in a less autobiographically sounding piece.
Director Lee Sunday Evans moves Issaq around the stage and through her words with sensitivity, filling the space with purpose.
As a work of writing, A Good Day to Me Not to You is blisteringly funny and seems deceptively shapeless, almost like a meandering evening of stand-up comedy, until it comes together to a fine point–that of the story of a woman who’s lost so much of herself she doesn’t know where to begin to find what’s left. Will she even be able to do so? Will Meecie leave the women’s shelter within the suggested year’s time, or will she remain until the end of her days, hoarding forks and fading into the canary yellow walls, another lost soul whose “RIP” is posted on the community corkboard in the dining hall? As the lights dim, the wainscoting and circular cross window which originally seemed innocuous and architecturally obligatory, light up with simple candles and a blue glow, rounding out the apt lighting design by Mextly Couzin. The space is once again filled with an alluring purpose, or at least the hope of it, promises optional.
I, too, think teeth are spectacular, and so is this show.
A Good Day to Me Not to You (extended through December 16, 2023)
Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For information and tickets, visit https://www.waterwell.org/a-good-day-to-me-not-to-you-show-page
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission