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She Walks The Line

Tara Clancy deploys both outlandish tales and intimate descriptions in a memoir of growing up in the outer reaches of NYC.

In her one-woman show, “Channel Rat,” Tara Clancy tells stories anyone from an outer borough of New York, or a forsaken lower middle-class suburb can identify with. Clancy’s stories are far out enough to be funny but not so outlandish that they don’t seem like they could be real.

Clancy shows great skill in writing and framing the material. In collaboration with her director, Kel O’Neill, she makes direct eye contact with the audience throughout the 75 minutes, and they use lighting like a scalpel to carve out more intimate portions of the material and later to roll out a broader canvas for the broader stories.

The show’s title is derived from a little known two-mile long portion of Queens, N.Y., called Broad Channel that is sandwiched between Howard Beach and Rockaway, whose inhabitants are derisively labeled “channel rats.” After setting the stage of Broad Channel with description of its few features that include a porta-potty company, two VFW posts and a bird sanctuary of all things, Clancy sums it all up with a quick flow of words describing the key features of the neighborhood and her family’s place in it as she grew up.

But Broad Channel was not the extent of Clancy’s experience growing up, as her mom took up with a rich Manhattan business consultant after her parents’ divorce, introducing the young Clancy to the Hamptons. It is here Clancy stretches the canvas wider and adds more physical action to the telling of her tales.

The third facet of the triptych explored in Clancy’s show is time with her grandparents, which later helps her relate to an old Broad Channel neighborhood woman she encounters in a supermarket years later, labeled a “pitch-perfect eccentric” and the “Sicilian mourner” for constant black attire -- but not in derision rather in admiration. This portion reaches a peak in Clancy’s description of her high-roller grandmother’s adventures in Atlantic City.

So what are the lessons for a Channel Rat, a Staten Islander or New Jersey native for that matter, once they’ve escaped their origins to the city? Clancy concludes that while they may think they’re above where they came from, they shouldn’t forget the lessons learned in these places about what makes sense in life. It’s a valuable lesson and it’s told with vivid examples and wit.

“Channel Rat” will be performed in the Fringe Festival on August 20, 25 and 26. 



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