written & performed by Elisabeth Gray
directed by Daniel Zimbler
"Southern Discomfort evolved out of my desire to explore an honest vision of the contemporary South and the bizarre, wondrous people who inhabit it. The challenge and the fun of the project has been to discover compassion for characters who— on the surface, at least— warrant none, who would be overlooked by an outsider as slovenly or boring or materialistic or racist or demented— you name it. As Flannery O’Connor concluded ‘For me, anything that is comic is truly tragic and anything that is tragic is truly comic,’” says Miss Gray.
Written in the Southern Gothic tradition where Flannery O’Connor meets O’Henry, Elisabeth Gray’s Southern Discomfort is a comedic exploration of loneliness and the drastic measures people take to overcome it.
Declared a "talented writer and actress" by The New Yorker, Miss Gray brings a collection of idiosyncratic characters to life in Southern Discomfort: from a homosexual teenage boy selling Civil War reenactment weaponry at his family’s gun stall, to a former beauty queen in a plastic surgeon’s office obsessed with facial symmetry, to a forlorn tow truck driver in love with an African-American-Mormon stripper. The men and women Gray portrays in the show are all based on real, true Southerners she has met and known.
“Miss Gray portrays the characters she creates with a remarkable degree of ethos and pathos...her touching and often disturbing stories of life in the South transcend regionalism and cultural bias. Indeed, her stories are replete with rhetorical strategies that make a sustainable argument that racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, and doubt transcend borders and boundaries of all description. And the playwright’s brilliant portrayals of these characters challenge her audience to make rich and deep connections to their stories, their attempts to cope, and their endeavors to build new futures.”
– Theatre Reviews Limited
“Elisabeth Gray is a gifted writer and performer.”
– Mountain Xpress
“Undeniably appealing...Gray’s performance is unfailingly intelligent.”
– Backstage NYC
“The young actress captures the multiplicity of Southern personalities in her one-woman show—each of the characters has a distinct accent and comes from a distinct region...true empathy.”
– Out Magazine
“In Southern Discomfort Gray doesn’t have a safety net at all: She’s alone on stage, performing monologues that she wrote herself. In just over 70 minutes, she plays everyone from a male tow truck driver reflecting on a cross-country love affair to a former beauty queen who’s obsessed with making her face symmetrical. Along the way, she confronts Southern attitudes about race, age, sexuality, and love. Crucially, Gray demonstrates there’s more than one way to be Southern.”
“Brought vibrantly to life by a truly gifted actress... Ms. Gray remarkably portrays six different characters in this one-woman show that are all at different stages of loneliness and isolation. Southern Discomfort is a vivid and often disturbing look into the American South and the fascinating people who inhabit it... As a native of the South, Ms. Gray has crafted a piece of theatre that showcases her amazing acting strengths, but more important is the emotional depth and truth she has discovered in these real-life stories she has collected over the years.”
– Exeunt Magazine
“Consciously quirky as some of the characters are – the gay gun salesman who recalls how his closeted lover blew up his hand, a trucker in love with a Mormon stripper who dances to “Over the Rainbow” – Gray conveys them naturally and with sensitivity, making a wide array of personalities poignant and humorous. Her greatest skill is the balance of comedy and tragedy...”
– Show Business Weekly
“Gray, with the help of director Daniel Zimbler, uses intimacy to her advantage. In “Southern Discomfort,” the audience is brought into the play and becomes part of the bizarre story. Much of this is due to Gray’s extraordinary acting skills... Although there is a touch of the stereotype about them, Gray goes beyond the surface to the suffering that lies below the familiar image. What emerges is the humanity we all share.”
– NY Theatre Wire