Maddie Corman Relives Her Worst Years in True Story Accidentally Brave
Standing ovation for Maddie Corman.
Even as I write this, I'm still thinking about, and still floored by, Accidentally Brave, her new solo play at the DR2 Theatre.
Corman — known onstage most notably for Next Fall, and onscreen in classics like John Hughes's Some Kind of Wonderful — had an idyllic life: prosperous career; lovely house in Dobbs Ferry, New York; and a devoted, if a little distant, husband named Jace Alexander. Alexander, one of the most prolific television directors out there (he also played the thief who robs Alicia Silverstone in Clueless), had a big secret — one that wasn't uncovered until the police came knocking one day after Corman had gone to work.
If you're a regular reader of the New York Post, the headline "Law & Order director busted on child porn charges" might ring a bell. But as Corman quickly points out, her show isn't about Alexander or his legal efforts or his addictions. There will be no salacious details. Accidentally Brave is about the uncertainty of rebuilding a life you thought you knew, while being fully aware that it will never be the same again.
"This isn't one of those shows where I'm here to tell you that I was OK, and then I wasn't OK, but now I am OK," Corman says at the top. Indeed, Accidentally Brave goes beyond play or performance; as directed by collaborator Kristin Hanggi, the 90-minute piece is an example of drama therapy. Corman's words, her physical behavior, her tears, seem so authentic that it's like she's reliving her trauma in an effort to examine her deeply set wounds and exorcise the tormenting demons. You almost get the impression that she'd be doing this show even if there were no audience involved. It's riveting, personal theater, but it is also truly harrowing, especially as she reenacts the frantic phone calls from her 15-year-old daughter during the early-morning police raid on their house.
But Corman also infuses the material with the kind of piquant humor that most people long for after a terrible thing happens. In one scene, she introduces her daughter to a potential friend, only to have her daughter point out that Corman was holding the book Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts with its cover side facing front during the conversation. Later, Corman buys 27 pumpkins from Stew Leonard's to decorate for Halloween — because it might be the last time she gets to celebrate the holiday if the courts rule that her family may no longer welcome trick-or-treaters.
Even now, almost four years later, Corman is still coping with what happened and learning how to soldier on, all while exploring the question of forgiveness and redefining the bonds of marriage and family. It's no spoiler to say that she and Alexander, who is in his second year of a decade's probation, are still together, and after a recent appearance on The View, it's clear that putting a human face to such difficult conversations is going to ruffle a lot of feathers. There are no easy answers, and there's no skirting the fact that this play will make a lot of people ethically, morally, and physically uncomfortable.
But Accidentally Brave is a must-see for all of those reasons. It's especially good because we've never seen Corman's story presented with such brutal honesty and internal turmoil. Her ability to look the worst in the eye and face it just continues to prove what we all realize from the second the lights come up: Accidentally or not, Maddie Corman is strong as hell.