Life and all the emotional baggage that comes with it are unpacked at The Magnetic Theatre in Murphy Funkhouser Capps’ one woman show, The Baggage Plays. Performed in two parts, on two different nights, Crazy Bag and Carry On run through Sunday, Sept. 15.
Funkhouser Capps takes us along for the ride from her childhood through motherhood, and beyond. She provides laughter and pathos amid the literal stacks of world-worn suitcases that adorn the stage around her.
What started as a single play many years ago continued to grow as Funkhouser Capps’ life progressed. She reworked her earlier version into two 75-minute, one-act plays. Much is informed by Capps’s church- and military-family upbringing. She clearly inherited the pastoral gene from her father, standing before a large congregation and testifying her life’s story. There are no altar calls, but there are plenty of moments where one might feel compelled to issue a hearty “Amen” in response to the moments of honesty.
Like a motivational speaker at a self-help seminar or group-therapy session, Funkhouser Capps instantly endears herself to the audience and holds that relationship through a barrage of self-effacing confessions that often resonate. Who hasn’t had struggles with parental relationships during rebellious teenage years? And for those who’ve had children and felt uncertainty, there’s a deeply emotional connection as we witness Funkhouser Capps struggle with motherhood, fearing she isn’t ready to take on the responsibility for another life. The funny bone and the heartstrings both get a workout here, and often alarmingly close together.
A life size cut-out of the playwright, clad in a tight outfit and smoking a cigarette, is brought out as part of her rebellious side. Like a split personality, she indicates that it’s her invisible friend, egging her on to push boundaries. “Dark Murphy” is onstage from early in the show and serves as a constant reminder of that part of herself, even as she is forced to grow up and accept responsibility.
Rodney Smith directs and assists with some onstage machinations, as a small mountain of stacked suitcases come crashing down at one point. It’s a symbolic touch that might otherwise seem too on the nose, but the wit and sincerity of the show prevent it from falling into that trap.
Each suitcase represents something specific, or — more accurately — the baggage that we accumulate and haul around with us in life. Opening that baggage can be daunting, but whatever lurks inside is still there, whether we open it or not: a strong underlying message of the show. Just wanting to ignore it won’t make it go away. And through her bravery, Funkhouser Capps is willing to open her baggage for our entertainment and enlightenment.
WHAT: The Baggage Plays
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., themagnetictheatre.com
WHEN: Through Sunday, Sept. 15. Crazy Bag runs Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m., Carry On runs Friday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. $23 ($10 off tickets to both performances)