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Intimately honest ?Young Lady? is both hilarious, moving

February 23, 2019

Carolyn Meyer stars in ?Don?t Call Me Young Lady.? (Courtesy of Russell Maynor)22

Carolyn Meyer is a talented writer of children’s books and an avid theater enthusiast. I have seen her in the audience of many shows, but then at last year’s The Seven Festival of Short Plays at Fusion Theatre, she ? at age 82 ? performed in a play for the first time. Not long after that, I learned she was writing a one-woman show about her life to be performed by herself. That show, “Don’t Call Me Young Lady,” directed by Barry Simon, is now in performance at the Cell Theatre.

“Don’t Call Me Young Lady” is an honest, well-written account of an extraordinary woman’s long search for love. The core of this dramatic confession is her irrepressible desire. Imagine Philip Roth as an 82-year-old woman and you will have some idea what to expect. But instead of 13-year-old Portnoy telling his psychoanalyst about his sexual fantasies and compulsive masturbating, you have instead an elderly woman lamenting to a live theater audience that her vibrator is unable to talk to her.

For almost 90 minutes, Meyer shares her most intimate secrets with a group of rapt voyeurs. It is not for the faint of heart or easily shocked, or for those who assume octogenarian women are devoid of sexual desire and fantasies. I am not at liberty to describe much of the content of the show; it is simply too ribald for a family newspaper. Yet it is never gross or crude. The presentation of her lifelong search for love and sexual communion is often hilarious (she once turned to a stranger sitting next to her in a theater and asked, “What’s a BJ?”). Yet it is so honest and heartfelt that it seems to transcend the category of the profane altogether.

“Don’t Call Me Young Lady” is also poignant. Meyer was valedictorian in high school but not popular, especially with boys. She speaks candidly of a lover who insisted she get an abortion and then of what I can only describe as a rape by the man who was supposed to perform the illegal operation. After two bad marriages, she gets cancer and has her breasts removed. She assumes she will never be loved or desired again, and then meets the love of her life, who doesn’t see her as missing anything at all. She details the perils of online dating as a widow in her 70s and compares one such date to a job interview in which she is interviewing a guy she doesn’t want to hire for a job he doesn’t want to get.

At the opening-night performance, Meyer lost her place and was saved by her poise and improvisational skill. She also had the good sense to call out to her director in the booth to give her “the damn line.” This happened a couple of times, and it could have sunk the show, but thankfully she got back on track and it was smooth sailing to the end.

“Don’t Call Me Young Lady” is playing through March 3 at The Cell, 700 First NW, Downtown. For tickets go to FORUMabq.com or call 766-9412.