Robert Charles Gompers’s The Funeralogues is, like death, a solitary affair. Performed at the Upper East Side’s All Souls Chapel, this one-woman show stars Stacy Mayer as a chipper neurotic who finds funerals as seductive as she does terrifying: In her early years, she staged imaginary burials, and, as an adult, she crashes real ones. (Had Harold and Maude‘s tryst led to a love-child, she’d probably look a lot like Mayer.) The actress’s character, named after and based on Mayer herself, describes and re-creates these scenes with frantic patter and wild smiles that hint at her deep discomfort. This site-specific piece does indeed belong in a chapel—a place for funerals, naturally, but also for wondering and worrying about death.
Just as a funeral can prompt the honest mourner to ponder the departed’s flaws along with his heroic qualities, so too does The Funeralogues inspire a wistful sense of what might have been. Mayer is most provocative when exploring conversational crises—the speechlessness that strikes a teacher who discovers a student has lost his father, or a soldier who must tell a civilian that his daughters have died. Yet her speed and shrillness prevent us from grasping the complexity of these moments, and of her character’s psychology in general. We leave the chapel wishing we’d had more time to figure out what it all meant, but—like life—The Funeralogues ends too soon.