Yes, you read that title correctly: Jazz Hand. One singular sensation. “Jazz Hand: Tales of a One-Armed Woman is a two-person sketch show that addresses some of the awkward and absurd situations that actor Mary Theresa Archbold has encountered regarding her prosthetic arm. Featuring hilarious personal monologues, dancing, and singing, Jazz Hand holds a mirror up to the stereotypes carried by an unwitting and (mostly) good-intentioned general public.”
I was eager to attend this free performance (thanks Millennium Stage!) last week after I’d heard Mary Theresa Archbold on This American Life (take a listen here). The story explores “unwitting and mostly good-intentioned public’s” tendency to refuse to notice things right under their noses. For instance, one of Mary’s Pilates students of two years never knew that she does not have two full arms. Here’s a clip from the radio show:
“And I hung the post card up in my room along with a bunch of other letters that people had sent me. And pretty soon, people in my cabin had started asking me. They said, “Oh, who is that?” And I said, “Oh, that’s Mary. She’s my Pilates teacher. She’s great.” And they were like, “Oh, does Mary only have one arm?” And I said, “No, Mary has two arms.” And they said, “Oh, well in the postcard, she only has one arm.” And I looked at them. And I was like, “No, no. Mary definitely has two arms. They must be doing some sort of special effects for the show. You know, Mary is a dancer. She was a cheerleader. I see her do Pilates all the time. I see her twice a week all the time. I go to her classes. I mean, Mary definitely has two arms.” And they said, “OK! Why did she write a show about only having one arm?” And I said, “I don’t know. She’s creative!”
The show won Mary an Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor at NYC Fringe. And now that Mary and Pat came to the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, they performed their show with Mary 7 months pregnant. Seeing her everyday travails explained (tying shoes, auditioning for musicals, teaching Pilates) in addition to seeing her perform the Fosse choreographed All That Jazz finale to Chicago (high kicks and splits on stage) all while majorly pregnant and with one hand filled me with admiration and pride.
The show is awe-inspiring and fun, a rare mix. Mary and Pat perform wittily and with aplomb, while showing love to each other and the audience.
Written by Haley Fults.