It’s impossible to watch actress, comedian and singer Bridget Everett in action on a cabaret stage without giving in to the experience and falling asleep like an idiot. She is hilarious, dirty and so comfortable with her voice, her body and her sheer, sparkling presence that it captivates the public. There is also the fact that to watch her in action on the cabaret stage is to watch her in action. disabled of it – she spends a good part of her act happily prowling around the crowd to flirt, approach, challenge, kiss and push away members of the audience, one by one.
If you know Everett’s nightclub number, you’ll probably be spending at least the first few minutes of his new HBO series. Someone somewhere in a puzzled haze of cognitive dissonance. As Sam, a woman who has returned to her hometown to care for her dying older sister and has spent the past six months or so healing her grief, the electrifying performer runs on low voltage.
This is quite intentional, as is the fact that there is nothing broad or comical about the semi-autobiographical series. Yes, the premise bears a fleeting similarity to the sitcom’s classic fish out of water trope – we learn that Sam moved to the big city a while ago and now feels alienated from his hometown. But the difference is one of the degrees: his hometown is “the eighth largest city in Kansas!” as one character sardonically notes. The “big city” from which she recently returned? Lawrence, Kansas – the sixth largest city in the state.
Take off, find a voice
Sam, at the start of the series, is stuck. She lives in her late sister’s house, but still sleeps on the sofa. She has found work scoring standardized tests, but refuses to engage with her colleagues. She’s crazy about her niece (Kailey Albus), but in order to do that, she must endure the overwhelming disdain of her sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison), the disturbing consumption of her mother (Jane Brody), and the relentless passivity of her father. (Mike Hagerty).
The show’s Manhattan, Kansas life isn’t idealized, but it’s not patronizing, either. Informed by the life experience of Everett (she grew up there), the series seems determined to grant its characters a refreshing self-awareness – which, most importantly, is unrelated to the idea of leaving their hometown and the community it offers, behind.
He does this by tripping Sam on a gathering of strangers called the Choir Practice which, although it does meet in a church space in a dying mall, is not officially sanctioned by any religious institution. Instead, it’s a space where adjacent queer and queer residents of the city can come together to celebrate and – this is where Sam’s story comes in – to happen.
Hosted by charismatic Fred Rococo (Drag King Murray Hill), Choir Practice is an brainchild of Sam’s colleague Joel (UCB regular Jeff Hiller), who remembers her – and her amazing voice. – since high school.
Hiller is the show’s not-so-secret weapon. He invests the clumsy, cheerful, and religious Joel with a self-actualizing confidence of clarity and defiance. He adores the place he lives and repels Sam’s thoughtless and thoughtful condescension towards him. He’s the one who urges her to attend the choir practice and ultimately stand up in front of everyone and do what she (both Sam the character and Everett the performer) was born to do.
Those of us who have seen Everett on stage might expect the show to ditch its muffled, low-key energy here, to show us a woman rediscovering her voice once and for all – and show us how this moment is. feels to her: we might expect a drastic change in lighting and a lush sound mix that challenges the modest instrumentation visible on stage behind her. We might even expect a fantastic musical number, filled with sparkling production elements like costumes and choreography.
What we get instead is a woman who convinced herself that she’s never good enough, remembering how much she enjoys singing – first with hesitation, then with a little more confidence. . (The choice of the song in question – Peter Gabriel / Kate Bush’s meditative ballad “Don’t Give Up” – might divide viewers; some (hi!) Will find it too capricious is a valuable way, others will accept- the for what it is, a lovely little moment.)
Someone somewhere knows that rediscovering your purpose, especially after a long time struggling with grief, doesn’t happen in a flash. It’s a piecemeal process that forces you to consider why you forgot yourself in the first place. And that’s really what it’s all about in the series: Sam disentangles the different factors that acted on her (her sister’s judgment, her mother’s alcoholism, her own need to keep others at bay. ) to deprive her of her access to joy.
Over the course of the season’s seven episodes, there are other evenings at Choir Practice, more opportunities for her to embrace her love of performance. At the end of the seventh and final episode, Sam isn’t light years away from where she started out, but she isn’t stuck where she was.
Not all scenarios fit perfectly into the low-fi, low-intensity vibe that prevails in the series; a series of scenes where Sam and Joe drag her sister’s husband (Danny McCarthy) into a car appear to belong to another, older show.
But above all, Someone somewhere offers a modest and refreshing view of the struggle to reintegrate yourself into life, and give yourself a dispensation to find joy in the shadow of loss. It’s not the kind of song Everett could sing at the top of her voice in her cabaret act, but it’s a song she sings here with deserved and honest precision, clarity, and emotion.