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Paulanne Simmons

Monica Bauer recounts the year she was "Gifted"

Monica Bauer in "The Year I Was Gifted" at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Mill Goble.

"The Year I Was Gifted"
Written and performed by Monica Bauer
Directed by Carolyn Ladd
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59 Street, between Park and Madison
July 17, 18 & 19 at 7pm, July 20 at 2pm
Tickets: $20 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons July 18, 2013

Before making her way to Edinburgh, Monica Bauer is presenting her solo show “The Year I was Gifted,” at 59E59 Theaters. The show is largely autobiographical and recounts how Bauer, a girl from a working-class family in Nebraska, managed to get herself accepted to a school for artistically gifted children, even though she had neither a special talent nor the money for tuition.

The show, well-directed by by Carolyn Ladd, paints a clear picture of a determined young lady as seen by her older self. There’s humor, irony and understanding here.

Bauer talks about how she reviewed the various ways of displaying her talents, including writing a piano composition in C, the only key she know, or submitting a taped scene of her imitating Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” She finally decided on playing percussion in the “William Tell Overture,” and got accepted.

Money was secured with the help of a foundation set up by Warren Buffet’s wife (both he and his wife are Nebraskans), as well as the father of a friend. After a bit of strong-arming her parents and the intersession of her sister (who hated her and only wanted to get rid of her for a while), Bauer finally achieved her goal.

Bauer didn’t quite fit in at camp. She worried about how she would prove herself and make friends. Then she met a gay student who became her friend and mentor after his boyfriend was discovered with another young man.

Neither Bauer nor her friend seemed particularly outraged at the young man’s fate. In fact, her friend seemed to think his former boyfriend had gotten his just deserts. The show focuses on Bauer’s attempts to make an impression so she will be invited back next year, this time with a full scholarship.

But in the last few minutes of “the Year I Was Gifted,” Bauer shifts gears. We learn that another gay youth had been expelled and Bauer had to decide whether or not to endanger her chances of a scholarship by taking a stand.

“The Year I Was Gifted” has two worthy subjects. It is a coming-of-age story and it is a protest against homophobia. But these two subjects do not fit easily into the framework of the piece, and the audience is totally unprepared for the shift at the end.

Bauer is a talented writer and performer. If she could keep to her original focus in “The Year I Was Gifted,” she could always go back to Edinburgh next year with a new play about the other subject that is dear to her heart.


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