Lion Eyes

Tanna Frederick.

Tanna Frederick in a previous production.

By: Darryl Reilly

God, are you there? Am I going to be successful? Will I have a series? I want to have an Oscar. When will the good stuff happen?

You are going to be a single woman living in a rental.

So, ponders performer Tanna Frederick at the start of her beguiling self-written solo show, Lion Eyes; God responds to her existential questions via a wry recorded voice over. The Iowan Ms. Frederick arrived in Hollywood in the late 1990’s, as a young woman striving to break into show business; mirth and queasiness abound during this increasingly chilling tale. We get an engaging account of her early days of restaurant work, living with a roommate and auditioning. The dark twist here is her complex romantic relationship with an unnamed renowned independent film director; he is referred to as Maestro. One can look at Frederick’s filmography and discern who he is, if one doesn’t know.

Tanna Frederick in a previous production.

After enjoying one of Maestro’s movies at home, Frederick writes him a fan letter and receives an invitation for an office meeting with him. “Want to be in my next movie?” he asked her at that encounter. He subsequently drops his pants, revealing his penchant for wearing feminine underwear. There is also his habit of putting on makeup, fondness for donning scarves, and his offbeat relationship with his mother. Thus, uneasily begins a many years long personal and professional involvement; they each won awards at a film festival for one of his movies. The Ambien popping Maestro inherited great wealth, enabling him to fund his projects and to fuel his celebrity-laden lifestyle while routinely giving hundred-dollar-bills to homeless people. His continued neurotic relationship with his ex-wife is a further harbinger of trouble ahead.

Tanna Frederick in a previous production.

Clad in pink tulle, a pink bustier adorned with large colorful beads, sneakers and striped socks, Frederick is a vison of charming eccentricity. Her limber physique, animated face, flowing red hair and melodious voice, are all demonstrative of her sparkling stage presence which is displayed as she delivers her whirling 55-minute confessional. The show was performed on a black accented stage set with a black cube in the center surrounded by sheets of multi-colored construction paper arranged in a circle. This simple environment accompanied by steady muted lighting achieves a theatrically eerie dimension. The shrewd writing alternates between set recitations, stream of consciousness-style reveries and vivid spontaneity. A golden moment was when Frederick unintentionally thudded on the floor, leading to a few witty ad libs. Lion Eyes is ultimately a distinctive addition to the genre of personal exposes of Tinseltown’s sordidness, wherein illusions are lost. Randal Kleiser and Judd Nelson are credited as creative directors of the production.

Lion Eyes was developed in Los Angeles; this New York City premiere was part of an annual festival of one-person shows running through April 28, 2024. The event is presented by the area-based theater company, United Solo; “Our goal is to present solo pieces, both local and international; discover original scripts; bring creators together; exchange perspectives; and inspire creativity related to solo performance.”

Lion Eyes (March 29, 2024)
United Solo Festival
Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit
Running time: 55 minutes with no intermission



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