Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Old White Lady Tells It

Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of Shining City and Dean's review of The Glass Menagerie

Carolyn Meyer
Photo by Russell Maynor
Carolyn Meyer is making quite a splash with her one-woman shows. It all began last year with Don't Call Me Young Lady, a blend of stand-up comedy and personal storytelling in which we learned quite a lot about her. It was entertaining, sometimes a bit shocking, and sometimes raunchy. The title came from the common line Meyer hears when she's out and about. Because she's in her mid-80s, people call her "young lady," a term she finds condescending since she's proud of her age. That show sold out its short run of Sundays at the Cell, so additional shows were added, and then added again. She took the show on the road, traveling to Santa Fe, New York City for the United Solo Festival, and then on to Anchorage, Alaska.

Her new show, The Old White Lady Tells It, is again presented by Fusion at the Cell Theatre, and it comes with the tag, "the making and unmaking of a racist." Meyer takes on the subject of racism as honestly and bluntly as she approached aging and sex in her earlier show. Fusion's executive director, Dennis Gromelski, introduces the program, noting that even though the subject is highly sensitive, it's OK to laugh.

Meyer's performances have featured lobby performances by well-regarded Albuquerque folksinger Oskar Butler. At the beginning of the performance I attended, Butler came out before Meyer to sing a song he had written in response to this show. The superbly written song tells his story about meeting Meyer on the street, and she welcomes him warmly despite the fact that she's an "old white lady" and he's black.

The touching and personal song sets the scene for Meyer's powerful story of racism and the unmaking of racism. Meyer grew up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1940s when racism was simply a way of life, as certain as skies are blue and trees are green. As the story progresses through her life, all of that changes profoundly. As Meyer grows into adulthood, she embraces all races, something that causes deep rifts in her family.

Early on in the story Meyer recalls that, when she was young and on her way to a piano lesson, she passed a young black girl. Because of the racism of the era, she knew better than to make eye contact. But the incident stayed with her in vivid detail. Decades later, she used that memory to create a heroic young black protagonist for one of her novels.

Meyer keeps this intensely revealing story funny from opening to close. The stage is dark and bare except for a chair and a faceless white doll she uses as a prop. Director Barry Simon, who notes in the program, "With humor, empathy, and the cold, precise eye of a writer, Carolyn stands up and exposes through her stories not only the 'isms' she learned and had to reject, but the ones we too have to confront."

This is an excellent show.

The Old White Lady Tells It has one remaining performance, on Sunday March 8, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. at the Cell Theatre, 700 1st St NW, Albuquerque NM. All seats are $20. For tickets and information, call 505-766-9412 or visit or