Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Imagine this – you’re thousands of miles away from your family, on holiday in Ireland, when suddenly you find yourself hospitalized and on the way to the operating theatre for emergency open heart surgery. Well, Shana Pennington-Baird doesn’t have to imagine – it was her reality. 4 years ago, on a trip to Ireland, Shana was overcome with illness, and she called emergency services. 3 days later, she woke up in the ICU with a scar running from her chest to her navel and having no clue what had just happened to her. It seems unreal and it’s all together, simply, terrifying but what it also is a story of courage, hope, family, and strength delivered with the utmost beauty and poise by Shana herself.
I knew when I first walked into the Forest Theatre at Greenside I was in a for a good show. Shana and her band of mature musicians were already poised on the stage, ready to go and the tone was set. Shana’s musical choices which flowed from Irish Folk to Stephen Sondheim were perfect for the tale she was telling, and the live music was electric. The story is well crafted, with bits of humour to break up the severity of the story and make the poignant moments hit home even more . The relationships she formed through her journey are told brilliantly in the beautiful musicianship and well-crafted text. Shana has a way with words and her voice expresses all the audience needs to know and her boundless optimism and energy shines through, making her an enigmatic and exciting presence on stage.
I can’t remember the last time I had a truly cathartic cry during a show, but I definitely left this one in tears, in the best way possible. I couldn’t help but close. my tiny little notebook filled with Fringe reviews and let this story just wash over me. I truly do love theatre like this, that can make me stop and take stock even after it seeing a hundred shows – there is art like this out there that just hits home. The music in the show speaks to the soul as does the heart of the story. Shana’s “letting go” song moved me beyond words and the way she spoke about the ache for her daughter, missing her first day of school, not being there to pick out what outfit she would wear, tugged at the heartstrings and pulled out the greatest empathetic response.
There’s not enough word to describe the complexity and the depth a show like this brings. I felt privileged to be in the audience. I feel grateful to Shana for sharing her story. And I feel blessed to have been witness to the amazing talents of the musicians in the show. This brilliant little piece of theatre is a slice of heaven, with a whole lot of soul. I truly hope Shana has the opportunity to share her story in this medium again and again and again. Thank you Shana for your joy, hope and courage. If you see Broken Wide Open playing anywhere near you, I encourage you to run to buy a ticket. This is a show I would have seen twice, if not 3 times had I had the chance.