Review: Staging a True Family Nightmare in ‘Accidentally Brave’


“Accidentally Brave” does not offer answers. For one thing, Ms. Corman provides few details about Mr. Alexander. What happened to him is “not my story to tell,” she says. And though she breaks her rule just enough to suggest the existence of explanatory events that “happened” in his youth, she does not in any way attempt to inhabit him the way she inhabits herself, her children and her friends, both stalwart and fair-weather. She never even mentions his name.

Given her skill at investing stage characters with palpable humanity — her daughter’s scream is both bloodcurdling and heartbreaking — this denial feels like an especially powerful expression of anger. And yet the real twist in the tale (though it’s not a spoiler) is that she and Mr. Alexander remain married, and have in some ways improved their relationship through the restart forced upon them.

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That’s a development that might have been easier to understand had it been dramatized, in scenes that did not quarantine important parts of the story and that inched toward resolution in real time. I wanted to see, rather than just hear as an anecdote, how Ms. Corman came to understand her husband as someone who isn’t evil but unwell, poisoned by pornography. And how she came to stand by him, as her wedding vows promised, in sickness, not just in health.

Ms. Corman, a professional actor since her teens — and herself the victim of sexual harassment at a young age — could certainly have performed such a script. With her nanosecond timing, she has nailed tricky ensemble scenes as both a sophisticated sidekick (in “Next Fall”) and an artless matron (in “The Babylon Line”), among many others.

Here, though, the form forces her to create an illusion of drama through a kind of solo montage. Several customized bravura sequences show her toggling with daredevil facility among various characters and moods. She smash-cuts from devastation to furor to false calm as if road testing them to see which is most useful.

Though you can’t help responding to the intensity of these acting moments, there is something slick about “Accidentally Brave” that comes with the confessional monologue genre. Ms. Corman may hate the word “journeys” but her script is not free of self-help jargon. More than once she offers the de rigueur (yet unnecessary) excuse that in telling her story she hopes “to be of service.”

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