Sharon Eberhardt is familiar with bicoastal living. Having grown up in Buffalo's Southtowns, attended school in New York City and now a resident of sunny Berkeley, Calif., Eberhardt feels the dichotomy of living life in two worlds.
But unlike the central character in her one-woman play, "Becca and Heidi," making its area premiere tonight in the Alleyway Theatre, Eberhardt is not struggling with the presence of an alter ego. Becca/Heidi - two personae belonging to the same woman - learns of her duplicitous personality from the people in her life, all of whom are played by the same actress. Ultimately she must decide who she wants to be. It's a challenge, Eberhardt says, that's both comical and dark at the same time.
Where did you find your inspiration for Becca/Heidi?
It's an inversion of the standard "Jekyll and Hyde" story. I saw a poster for the musical, which says, "Who knows what evil lurks?" And I thought, what if it's not evil, and not a man? Based on a Victorian model, we have to suppress evil. What if there's a lot of good inside of us looking to get out? What if our alter ego is doing good things, maybe you shouldn't try to stop them. The people around Becca start to prefer the alter ego, and that's part of her dilemma.
Personality disorders aren't inherently funny. How did you envision this as a comedy?
I'm a different kind of playwright, kind of a dark comic. I generally write things that people aren't quite sure if they're supposed to laugh at, things that are odd but not straight-out "ha ha" funny. And that's one of the things about it being a multicharacter play, too. The joke of Jekyll and Hyde.
One-woman shows are often seen as being autobiographical. Is there any truth to that assumption with this?
In a way. It's nice writing something that is kind of unbelievable because I can say, "Yes, it's completely me." But there are so many things in the character - she has all these plans for things she's going to do and self-help books to help her make her life perfect. That's me. If I did everything I planned to do, the world would be a different place. It's very much me, and it's very much not me.
How have your Buffalo roots traveled with you to New York City and now California?
It was fun to use the name of places that I love (in "Becca and Heidi"). I grew up in Lakeview near Hamburg, so the Wanakah Grill, and the Indian names - they're strange to people. One funny thing happened when this play was first done in San Francisco. The main character goes out at night and they're drinking beer and (the actress) mispronounced Labbatts (to rhyme with rabbits).
One of the things when I was first living in New York, I wrote things in that New York (sensibility). That's the world I was trying to fit into, to be cool. After a while what I realized what was most important to me was the world I knew growing up. I've realized that that is interesting to other people. That's different to them, what they know, or maybe it's different from their experience, but it resonates.