What makes one person's story compelling and another's banal? Maybe it's what people call soul. In her involving one-woman show, writer/performer Jasmynne Shaye describes growing up as the emotionally and sexually abused child of a single mother, and of her struggle to vanquish the demons bred of a lonely and loveless childhood. Like so many young Americans, Shaye, from first grade through her early teens, shared a decrepit housing-project apartment with her embittered mom and young sister, and her mom's various boyfriends. When life at home became unbearable, she was packed off to live with her dad, an icy, tightfisted man who turned his daughter into a housebound Cinderella. As often with solo shows, Shaye portrays multiple characters; some depictions are crystal clear, others less so. Her narrative rippling with accusatory recollections is directed, in part toward her invisible mother, in part out to the audience. Fortunately, juxtaposed with the painful memories are a few happier interludes brought on mostly by her dancing, in which she excelled. Ultimately what snares our interest is not the novelty of her story sadly all too common but the expressive, intrepid way in which she tells it. Under Jaimyon Parker's direction, some scene shifts in this bare-bones production are awkward, slowed by Shaye's frequent costume changes. Although these transitions need to be finessed, this is one case in which budget limitations and technical shortcomings are eclipsed by the performer's compelling voice. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd., Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through October 3. (323) 347-8554 or steppingontoes.com.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Sept. 10. Continues through Oct. 3, 2010