I discovered the artistic work of performer Stacie Burrows several years ago when her comic musical act, Mommy Tonk, played in Santa Barbara. In Mommy Tonk, Burrows and her co-front-woman Shannon Noel are harried, hardworking wives and parents with sassy songs and messages for, among others, their husbands and kids.
When Burrows took her one-woman show, Bulletproof Unicorn, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it caught my notice. Billed as “a dark comedy from this ray of sunshine,” I was intrigued by the idea of a more serious take on life from Burrows with the same blistering wit. More immediately, I was obsessed with the title. Tell me more about this unwoundable magical beast!
In this show (at Center Stage Theater, Dec. 8-10) Burrows explores events in her life that, thankfully, did not end tragically. She sets up her story by describing a destructive family dynamic fueled by mental illness and alcoholism. Burrows’s ne’er-do-well brother is the focus of this particular family memory, one involving a cache of heirloom hunting rifles, a suicidal mother, and two too many dead dogs. The story is harrowing, and Burrows weaves her tale with an eagerness that endears her to the audience and invites them to invest emotionally. Her delivery comes, at least partially, from a place of fury, but the story is also told with a sense of relief, a “we can laugh about it because no one got shot” kind of humor that highlights the outrageousness of the characters.
Bulletproof Unicorn is an example of solid storytelling rendered effectively for the stage. Burrows and her director, Elina de Santos, have created a good piece of theater, one that delivers comedy and pathos wrapped up in a dysfunctional family. And while the story spans Burrows’s 50 years of life, it contains a timely message of concern for the safety of a nation obsessed with guns.