Lauren Weedman trains her comic eye on Philly

Actress Lauren Weedman says of Philadelphia: "I thought it was where well-adjusted artists and adults who didn't need to be overly ambitious or 'famous' came to live instead of New York City." She'll elaborate this weekend.
Actress Lauren Weedman says of Philadelphia: "I thought it was where well-adjusted artists and adults who didn't need to be overly ambitious or 'famous' came to live instead of New York City." She'll elaborate this weekend. (ALBERTO E. RODRIGUEZ / Getty Images)
Posted: June 06, 2014

You might recognize actress and comedian Lauren Weedman because you've seen her in films such as Date Night or HBO series such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hung, True Blood, or the new gay-relationship comedy Looking. Or because you've seen her at Pat's Steaks in South Philadelphia, or Time Café downtown. "I was the middle-aged white lady trying to dance sexy with drinks in her hand," she says.

Weedman has spent this week rambling around Philadelphia, hanging with locals and studying our customs for use in her one-woman improv show, Well I Think You're Beautiful, Philadelphia, playing Friday through Sunday at the Adrienne Theatre.

Weedman's Twitter account tells her Philadelphia tale so far. She:

"Dozed off" doing the Eastern State Penitentiary tour - weird, because it's a walking tour.

Was at Chris' Jazz Café "doing heroin and writing poetry, I mean, eating chicken wings."

"Smelled throw-up" and "bought a bong" on South Street.

Spent too much morning time looking at "dried babies" at the Mutter Museum.

Weedman did her first city-centric one-woman show in May 2013 - The People's Republic of Portland, commissioned by Portland Center Stage. Boise Contemporary Theater then asked for a similar project, as did Revolutions Theater Festival in Albuquerque.

"The Portland show was - as all my shows are - about myself, so its focus was about how I needed to find a place to raise my kid outside of L.A.," she said in an interview this week. "Boise didn't have much development money, so we did a pared-down version of the Portland show." Rather than spend her Boise week writing a script, Weedman developed new stories as she traveled around the city, improvising at each performance.

"Our theme was 'Can Boise save my marriage?' because a psychic there told me it was over - and indeed things had started to feel . . . odd.

"My next show was in Albuquerque. The day before I left, I found my husband had been having a three-year affair. So that show's theme was 'I guess I'm divorced now.' "

Weedman is in Philadelphia at the urging of Brannon Wiles, an assistant professor at Drexel University whose entertainment business class is producing her show (she attended a drum circle with one student and a Phillies game with the family of another).

Philadelphia first impinged on Weedman's consciousness years ago, when she believed it to be livable and charming yet dangerous.

"I thought it was where well-adjusted artists and adults who didn't need to be overly ambitious or 'famous' came to live instead of New York City," she said. It's also a rough city, agreed Drexel students, who suggested Killadelphia as the title of her new show.

"This, combined with a childhood friend being killed here back in the '90s, made me think it was a city of people running for their lives," she said.

That friend was Kimberly Ernest, 26, beaten to death in 1995 in the infamous unsolved "Center City jogger" case. When I apologize for bringing down the mood with mention of her school pal, she says, "You didn't kill her, did you?"

That kind of quick gallows humor is what Weedman does best, these days exemplified by snarky Doris, the nurse/roommate character who's just about the only female in HBO's recently renewed Looking.

She reveals little about Season Two, except to note that producers promise there will be more Doris in it. "Maybe that's a Hollywood thing to say. They're not going to say there's going to be a lot less of your character."

Weedman loves Looking's intimate, slice-of-gay-life vibe. "The creators let me improv and bring a lot of who I am to Doris. It's easier to memorize when you . . . don't memorize."

So she likes the control of improvisational shows such as this weekend's Beautiful; they allow her to create characters "not just to be funny, but get into heavier topics. And I didn't have to wait to be cast: The shows evolve with me. I love that. I can never blame writers or other actors for a bad show."

Soon after arriving in Philadelphia, Weedman headed for the Italian Market to see the lounge act Mr. Unloved at Teri's Bar.

"I was at a Center City sports bar and saw 'Unloved' in the paper, but the bartender said, 'You don't want to go down there. Lots of . . . you know . . . Spanish people.' I told him I loved tapas so I was going, but got distracted by Pat's down the street and sat there for hours watching a woman feed her pit bull cheesesteaks."

Other stops during the week: after-hours bars in Northern Liberties, Cuban music jams in West Philadelphia, and a random consignment shop where a woman sang Sinatra at the top of her lungs.

What's she getting out of all this for her show? "It will be collections of stories, overheards, characters, and moments, with the through-line being my life now, post-divorce and dating."

She mentions sitting at Eastern State Penitentiary thinking about the guy she'd gone out with the night before, who had done a year in federal prison for dealing drugs. "I was thinking how bizarre it is to date at 45. That doesn't sound hilarious, more like a bad sitcom pitch. But it will be funny."

And if not? "If not, it's only 75 or 80 minutes and you're back on the streets, eating and drinking your troubles away, like I've been doing since I arrived."


THEATER

Well I Think You're Beautiful, Philadelphia

8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday at the PlayGround at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St.

Tickets: $15 to $25. Information: 800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/693055

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|