Presented by TellPeople
“Mom was sick for two years.”
As an upfront encapsulation, Chris Graham gives us these six words. The simplicity of this phrase and the easy delivery in his calm, persuasive voice, foster a sense of tangibility and acceptance. This comfort is real, but deceptive; it is only A Small Part of the Whole Story.
Stories figure prominently here—the craft, experience and purpose of them. Specifically, Graham shares with us his mother’s illness, her death and his grief. And yet it’s all rather funny, even while it’s sad. His show is an invitation and guide to unpacking that charged duality.
Graham also touches on human cognition and memory. As he draws us in emotionally, allowing both his parents to be fully alive in our imaginations, he also encourages us to investigate how our brains work as they negotiate our fraught lives.
Graham is a TEDx coach and founder of TellPeople, a communications firm that enables professionals to utilize storytelling techniques to enrich their work and life. How do you capture someone’s attention? You tell the best story. That core philosophy is both stated and exemplified here.
You can see the familiar trappings of a TEDx presentation in the format. Graham has a remote control firmly in hand, ready to pull up images on a small screen off to the side. His use of this is very restrained though, just a handful of photos of himself and his parents, each one carefully chosen and contextualized for maximum impact.
He is accompanied by friend and musician, Sandro Pehar. In addition to furthering the immersion, Perhar’s presence, he confides, helps make the whole experience less “lonely.” I was particularly intrigued by his reference to the dynamic emotional dissonance music can provide that text, alone, cannot.
He talks a lot about the show itself and establishes an intimate, laid back atmosphere. This, too, is deceptive. Maintaining that casual vibe and allowing it to carry complex psychological ideas and emotional weight requires dramatic dexterity. Director and dramaturg Graham Isador has helped shape this solo show into an understated yet finely-wrought and compelling hour of theatre.