This year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, of the 1,100 shows that were reviewed over 86 media outlets, the show that clocked in with the most number of stars was Josie Long’s Cara Josephine. You can imagine how thrilled Brooklynites (who are struggling so much to pay their rents, they’re moving to Harlem and wouldn’t dream of shelling out the cash for a plane ticket to Scotland) were to learn that Union Hall in Park Slope was hosting a one-night-only performance of this highly praised show. The venue was packed, and I don’t mean just all the seats were filled packed, I mean (and I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble because I could be wrong) we had to be breaking fire code.
Cara Josephine is not Josie Long’s political material, it isn’t a mountain climbing story, and it isn’t a breadventure. It is the most honest and human of her material to date. Simply, it is the story of her heart getting broken last summer. I think The Guardian sums it up best: “This is a lovely show about that early-mid-life moment when you start to look harder at what you want from life, and how you’re going to get it.”
There is a rule in writing young adult books that says it doesn’t matter what happens during the book as long as it ends on hope. Cara Josephine is a bit like that. We travel from a relationship established off her ex’s epic reaction to period blood, to a somber analysis of what Josie Long is looking for in an ideal man (complete with chart/list), and finally to the realization that good things can happen to people, regardless of how hard they work or how little they’ve suffered. The conflict of this story comes in the form of poetry. Josie reads Walt Whitman (Weirdly, I had Specimen Days in my bag at the show. It’s a novel about a Irish kid in New York who is obsessed with Walt Whitman.) and other poets, one of whom said after getting his heart broken, it took five years for his heart to begin to thaw. At 32 years old, Josie is aware that if she wants a family and the happiness all her similarly-aged friends have staked a claim in, she doesn’t have five years to wait. Thus begins her journey in and out of depression, dealing with difficult family members, and discovering BBC Radio 3, rock climbing and cold river diving, and Quaker porn.
Union Hall got a very special edition of the show, as it was adjusted slightly for the American audience, and yet Josie became increasingly aware during the show that it was not adjusted enough. “I’ve just realized that this whole bit hinges on a politician you’ve never heard of.” Obscure references to radio stations, English towns, and talk shows are ad-lib footnoted throughout.
Despite stepping in and out of silly voices like somebody keeps flipping the channel to a film noir and despite tangents about murdering a politician on a romantic starlit night via marshmallows, Cara Josephine has a remarkable consistency to it. Your laughter is constant but shallow because underneath, Josie has gotten you to do a bit of soul-searching. This is a mirror that makes you wonder whether you, too, have missed the boat, or whether if your current relationship ends, if you’ll be just as screwed. Nothing makes good comedy like the cold, scary truth, eh? But, we end on hope, as Josie has been able to move on, and no doubt that’s partly due to the therapeutic act of unburdening herself of these emotions on stage over and over…but more on that in Anglonerd’s review of Tears of a Clown on the 18th.
- Saying “She’s had enough,” whenever someone leaves, or “He forgot something,” when they come back.
- Her sister wore a necklace of all her engagement rings.
- She likes having upper body strength so that she can get out of the bath.
- Let change happen and try not to die.