Monday, September 9, 2013
One of the most popular characters on "Orange Is the New Black" is Suzanne Warren, aka "Crazy Eyes," played brilliantly by Uzo Aduba. It is obvious this woman is an experienced stage actor. Aduba uses her whole body to portray the complexity of Suzanne's character. Every gesture, posture, nonspeaking moment is rich with expression. And how Aduba delivers her lines is by now legend. "I threw my pie for you." The clarity, annoyance, resolution, and intelligence delivered in that line — just moments after her pie-throwing eruption — is masterful. She has a long list of other memorable moments, and all of them are meaningful because of the humanity they reveal.
Why is Crazy Eyes so popular? Because she represents the true human experience:
• She asks, "Why does everyone call me 'Crazy Eyes'?" and we all remember what it feels like to be misunderstood.
• She appreciates that the arts enrich life. She writes poetry. She easily recites Shakespeare (I think it's Shakespeare). She can throw in a little classical dance move — did you see the pirouette or whatever that spinning airborne maneuver was at the Christmas audition? The arts help us understand what it means to be fully human. Crazy Eyes knows this.
• She's trying to cope. We all have our methods. Her coping method is to clean the bathrooms during the wee hours. Some of us run ("Cheaper than therapy"), some of us blog, others self-medicate.
• She wants to be loved. She recites a poem in pursuit of a new love: "Before I met you the sun was like a yellow grape." She is gallant in defending her new love: "I threw my pie for you." She is playful in romance: "Chocolate and vanilla swirl."
• She surprises us. Everyone has unexpected facts about their lives. Seeing Suzanne with her white, middle class parents was both unexpected and easy to believe.
• She is generous. She gave Piper the hot peppers with no condition of reciprocation. I believe we all have an impulse, or at least a hope, to be generous — we just fail at it. We see ourselves in Crazy Eyes, and we can learn a lot from her.