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a Drama
by Charly Evon Simpson

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 5523

SHOWING : May 30, 2019 - June 23, 2019



A bridge that spans a deep gorge draws tourists, joggers and more than a few wandering souls. Reeling from the loss of her mother, twenty-something Fay comes to the bridge looking for solace and a good place to vape, but what she finds is a journey of self-discovery. In the whimsically theatrical world of "Jump," lights flicker, hearts heal – and you never know what surprises will literally fall from the sky.

Hopkins Gil Eplan-Frankel
Judy Brittani Minnieweather
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by playgoer
Friday, June 14, 2019
"Jump" is a well-constructed, intriguing new play by Charly Evon Simpson that is being produced at Actor’s Express as part of a rolling world premiere. Given that the set is primarily a bridge and the title is "Jump," you’d be correct in assuming that the play involves a suicide due to a person jumping from the bridge. But your assumptions should extend only that far.

Emmie Finckel’s scenic design is a wow-er. Symmetrical on the diagonal, it runs through the middle of the black box space, with audience on either side. The main part of the set represents a bridge, with steel-appearing girders undergirding the raised structure and "W" shaped supports at either end. Steel cable railings peter out toward the middle of the bridge. Water pools beneath it. Wider sections of the stage at either end support furnishings: a bed and hope chest on the lobby side, on a braided oval rug; and an easy chair and ottoman on the far side, on a rectangular orange shag rug.

The other technical elements of the production are fine, if less impressive. Costumes by Dr. L. Nyrobi N. Moss are contemporary, so there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary, and Christopher Dills’ props fulfill all the specific requirements of the script (although using a cigarette-looking device to represent a real cigarette softens the viewpoint of the character that vaping isn’t "real" smoking). Lighting by André C. Allen illuminates the stage, but at times seems a little clunky. Chris Lane’s sound design does a very nice job of playing environmental sounds for the bridge that enhance the atmosphere without becoming distracting.

The structure of the play moves between time periods, but the movement is consciously fuzzy. Almost at the outset, we see the lights dim and brighten (somewhat clunkily) as the main character, Fay (Cyrah Hill), experiences déjà vu. We also are introduced to magical realism elements at the outset; we see Fay vaping, then dropping her vape pen in the water before catching apparently the same vape pen falling from the sky. (Is this a new trend? "Hands of Color" at synchronicity also has objects dropping from the sky.) This opening effect is echoed at the end of the play, in a wonderfully affecting moment.

Lydia Fort has directed the play with an eye toward sightlines for the split audience, but not always effectively. One early moment has two characters standing side by side in conversation, one facing in one direction and one facing in the opposite, in what seems to be a very artificial manner. Some later scenes seem to be played with faces toward just one side of the audience (luckily, the side I chose). Still, she has directed an effective production.

The main performances are terrific. Ms. Hill is wonderful throughout, and is nearly matched by Gil Eplan-Frankel as a troubled stranger she meets on the bridge. The other two actors are less impressive. Brittani Minnieweather is bright and personable as Fay’s sister Judy, but, as I overhead a patron saying on leaving the theater, "she doesn’t add much." Gerard Catus plays their father, and his performance seems a tad actor-y, with lots of wordless gestures and "acting moments" that make him seem very adept as an actor, but not quite in fitting with the rest of the production.

Mr. Catus’ performance helps add to the sensation of diffuseness in the play. The opening of the show repeats the same action over and over for both sides of the audience. There are two extended music sequences in which people dance, and they both go on far past the point of making their point. Watching people vape also adds silent moments to the show that give the feeling that things are being stretched out to fill a full 90 minutes. As we watch the vape vapors diffuse into the air, our interest wanes until the engrossing action starts up again.

"Jump" is a first-rate script being given a professional production at Actor’s Express, but one that slightly misses the mark in Lydia Fort’s direction. Ms. Hill’s performance is definitely worth the price of admission, and Mr. Eplan-Frankel adds to his list of recent, well-received performances, while Ms. Finckel’s set design impresses. If all elements of the production were up to those standards, this would be a five-star event. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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