Virtual Solo Comedy Theatre Show Explores Love, Loneliness, Trauma, & Quarantine

Anna LaMadrid in ‘The Oxy Complex’ | Image by Shay Yamashita

With many entertainment shows moving from in-person venues to the virtual space, it has become even more accessible to watch theatre and comedy shows right from the comfort of your lounge room or home office, which is probably going to become the “new normal” in some way even after the pandemic has ended.

And while you are continuing to battle through quarantine, we have the perfect way to help lift your mood and get entertained at the same time. Beginning March 21 and running through April 18, the IAMA Theatre Company is producing two really cool solo comedy shows by two Latinx feminist comedians. The Los Angeles-based company is dedicated to centering the voices of women, and producing live shows that cater to our streaming lifestyles. ‘The Oxy Complex’ by Anna LaMadrid, and ‘Anyone But Me’ by Sheila Carrasco are exactly the kind of shows you should be watching during Women’s History Month. We will be featuring both of these shows on GirlTalkHQ.

First up is ‘The Oxy Complex’ (teaser below), which explores love, sex, loneliness, trauma, and the hormone that affects it all — Oxytocin, also known as “the cuddle” or “love” hormone. The catch? It is set during the 500th day of quarantine. And at this point, we can all relate! The show was written and performed by Anna, and is directed by Michelle Bossy. Anna’s previous work includes ‘Vida’ on Starz (recurring); ‘Love, Victor’ on Hulu; ‘Bless This Mess’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on ABC.

The Venezuelan born, Los Angeles-based actress says she initially set out to examine the ways that technology interrupts our biology, but now that quarantine has taken away all our distractions and we have all this time on our hands, how do we reckon with ourselves? Viviana is a fictional character and her story is heightened, but the show is rooted in truth, drawn from personal experience and from other women she knows. We spoke to Anna about ‘The Oxy Complex’, going from ensemble acting to solo stage shows, and how quarantine has changed the way we relate to one another forever.

When did you first begin working on the idea for ‘The Oxy Complex’?  

I initially wrote the seed for this piece while I was in my 2nd year of grad school at the University of Washington. It started as a 15-minute exploration about how technology was disrupting our biology when it came to online dating. And our addiction to hormones that are released without our consent. What was interesting to me when IAMA asked me to expand this piece for 2020–was what was happening to us when the supply of oxytocin gets cut off while we quarantine. So essentially we have a character going through withdrawal at the top of the show. On top of that, quarantine took away all of the distractions we have developed to cope with our unresolved traumas. It’s a collective time reckoning and accepting ourselves. This was an interesting space for me to explore.

How do you think quarantine and COVID in general has changed the way we live and relate to one another forever?

We don’t fully know yet since we are still processing while we continue to quarantine. The immediate effects that I’m observing is how we shifted from trying to stay connected early in quarantine with Zoom hangouts with friends to dealing with Zoom fatigue which is further isolating us. I have found it difficult to have the energy to connect with friends at the end of the day, when I have spent most of my time in front of a computer and in Zoom meetings. My hope is that once this is over, we find a way to be more present and appreciate the moments that we get to share with other humans. I miss living ‘anxiety free’ of being worried about infecting someone or getting infected. I miss hugging my friends. I miss brunches. And I think for a long time, I/we just took those moments for granted. 

Anna LaMadrid in ‘The Oxy Complex’ | Image by Shay Yamashita

What were some of the real life experiences you drew from other women, for inspiration for Viviana? And did you incorporate any of your own experience into this character? 

Viviana is a mixture of my own experiences and women I know. Dating in NY can be brutal. As people were getting more and more used to meeting people online, my friends and I would share “war” stories. Like the time one of my friends created a fake profile to basically catch the guy who she was “seeing” and was told by him “exclusively” –actually set up a date with her avatar to which she then never showed up to confront him and then ghosted him. Or the time I matched with a guy and then he matched with my friend and she would send me screenshots of how sexually explicit he was being with her. Or getting black out drunk and then texting an ex to try and figure out why the relationship didn’t work and “get closure.” You know all those pitfalls of our current modern dating culture.

Much like quarantine for many people, doing a solo theater show requires you to go it alone on stage. How have you found the process of doing ‘The Oxy Complex’ compared to working on an ensemble play or TV show? 

I now have so much respect for artists like Sarah Jones, Anna Devere Smith and John Leguizamo. It takes so much energy from you as an actor to do a solo show. I was working with a dialect coach and we kept talking about Olympian type of training. The amount of breathwork it takes to sustain the energy/articulation to drive the scene. The amount of focus to respond to stimulus that isn’t there. It’s just incredible. And being off the stage and out of practice for over a year because of COVID, I was way out of shape for performing this story 5-6 times a week. So in some ways, I was very grateful that this show was filmed. When you are in an ensemble, you can share the brunt of the load and give you time to rest vocally. You also can feed off of their energy. It’s just so much easier to work with an ensemble.

Anna LaMadrid in ‘The Oxy Complex’ | Image by Shay Yamashita

How does mental health and personal wellbeing play a part in Viviana’s story? 

It’s at the center of this story. I think another effect of being in quarantine is that all of the distractions we normally use to not deal with our traumas and core wounds were taken away from us. So what are we left with? Ourselves. And whether or not you were ready, this last year was a time of reckoning and hopefully healing. Being in a position to put things in perspective and really look at how those experiences shaped you…both the good and the bad is what this story is about. An acceptance of self so that you can be present with others.

What do you hope audiences will take away most from watching ‘The Oxy Complex’?   

I hope that they let themselves off the hook about their relationship status. I remember spending (maybe I should say wasting) a LOT of my early 30s blaming myself for being single. Questioning everything from my looks, to my age, to my drive, etc. to try to explain why I somehow wasn’t good enough to be chosen by someone else. After doing research for this play, I now understand how both our biology and our behaviors are working against us to prevent us from forming healthy relationships. I have a lot more empathy. I can let go of people easier. I don’t stress so much or make rejection personal. People are doing the best they can. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of them. It just means they aren’t in a place that allows them to be vulnerable with another person. Or do the work it actually takes to establish and maintain a healthy relationship. And that’s ok. It’s all ok.

You can buy tickets for ‘The Oxy Complex’ HERE.

Anna LaMadrid in ‘The Oxy Complex’ | Image by Shay Yamashita