Amy Ziff's 'Accident': She's Doing Fine

By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2007

Amy Ziff hasn't totally sorted out what "Accident" is supposed to be, but it's still fun watching as she tries.

One-third of the all-female rock band Betty -- which two years ago stirred up Theater J audiences with its autobiographical play-with-music, "Betty Rules" -- Ziff is the hyper, sardonic one with blond dreadlocks and an acerbic clown's affinity for the jugular. (That she is also an accomplished cellist engagingly adds to her off-kilter biography.)

The conventions of stand-up comedy guide Ziff as she cites her life's foibles.

"Accident" is the new solo show that she's appearing in under the auspices of Theater J, although the actual performances take place in the upstairs Stage 4 space at Studio Theatre. At this point in its evolution, the fringe-theater-style piece is closer to stand-up than to fully integrated monologue, and so you laugh at Ziff's teasing observations, even if the comic threads aren't satisfyingly tied to something with more narrative gravity.

The ostensible subject is a comedian's reflections on her time on earth in an imagined afterlife. As you enter the space, you can't help notice that a bathtub with a mannequin enveloped in soap bubbles (and blond dreads) is positioned in the middle of the stage. A red ribbon affixed to one of its wrists and trailing to the floor is intended to represent how the rocker has gone to her reward.

You're not meant, of course, to take any of what follows too seriously, even the reports of her death. (An ambiguous ending adds to the confusion.) The freewheeling structure of the show, directed by Rebecca Asher, has doubtless been tailored to Ziff's own offhand style. It all works best when its star is giving us the full brunt of her personality. As when, for example, she tells us she wants to leave her mark on the world, "and not just for showing my boobs on 'The L Word.' "

The show's title addresses much of what Ziff builds the facetious evening around: the mishaps large and small that have defined her life. Those largely turn out to be excuses for Ziff to launch into short and funny impressions of everyone from a composite B-movie prison matron to the manager of a doughnut shop in Fairfax where she once worked. (Ziff and her sister Elizabeth, a fellow member of Betty, grew up there.)

An extended bit in which she refers to a list projected onto a screen of personal traits that might get her in, or keep her out of, heaven needs tightening (as does a similar sequence she calls an "accident jamboree.") At other times, too, Ziff falls back on such millennia-old comedy topics as airline travel. Even so, Betty fans and others are likely to appreciate their face time with an effervescent performer who reveals her aptitude for the spotlight in each cheeky broadside.

Accident, written and performed by Amy Ziff. Directed by Rebecca Asher. Lighting, Garth Dolan; sound consultant, Matt Rowe. About 75 minutes. Through Sept. 23 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Call 800-494-TIXS or visit

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