WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Professional theater officially returned Saturday when Northern Stage opened “It’s Fine, I’m Fine” at the Barrette Center for the Arts. Stephanie Everett’s poignant one woman show about a young woman’s descent after multiple sporting accidents proved more than worthy to be the first LORT (League of Resident Theatres) indoor production sanctioned by Actors’ Equity Association in the United States since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strict COVID-19 protocols were observed: reduced audience, temperature and health checks, masks, distanced seating, and entrance and egress supervision, etc. For those uncomfortable attending an indoor function at this time, a filmed version will be available online Oct. 22-Nov. 29.
In a quick hour, Everett tells her story, laughing, crying, singing. She relives her experiences bringing them to life for the audience. And despite her foibles — she is after all a teenager — we come to root for her. Most importantly we come to understand.
Directed by Carol Dunne, Northern Stage’s producing artistic, the autobiographical “It’s Fine, I’m Fine” recounts Everett’s life as it dive-bombed after multiple debilitating concussions she received playing varsity soccer at Dartmouth. But rather than a sappy girl triumphs-over-difficulty tale, this is a deeply personal and nuanced story of a young woman facing not only her physical issues but growing up.
And, believe it or not, there’s plenty of fun as Everett is seldom maudlin and has a real sense of humor about her condition and her life.
Everett, of course, tells of how she got there and her denial of the problem that was developing. She recounts how her relationship with her team faded away, leaving her lost as to who she was. She sees her medicos as unsympathetic, and receives little relief from her therapists – though there are some particularly introspective moments.
Still, getting there is the best part. There is her colorful Maman, her French-speaking mother from Senegal, who overwhelms with her deep love and assuring knows-better-than-thou attitude. There is her loving father, becoming concerned about the medical bills, who doesn’t always understand. And then there is her first love. Much of it is a mix between poignant and funny.
Of course, we know what happened because we’re watching seeing her as a professional actress and playwright.
Although a bit facile in the beginning, Everett’s performance was very inviting. It felt like she was telling each of us her story — individually. Perhaps most poignant were the songs, monologues expressing her inner feelings, sung tenderly while ably accompanying herself on guitar. It was beautiful.
The production had all Northern Stage’s usual polish, but was also compelling. Choreography by Beatrice Capote helped give Everett’s movement emotional direction. James Roeder’s simple and novel set — I won’t give it away — helped give form to the action. All was supported by effective and dramatic sound design by Jane Shaw and lighting by Jennifer Reiser.
Stephanie Everett’s “It’s Fine, I’m Fine” is a compelling tale of what it means to be human – beautifully told by its creator.