Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: The Edge of Our Bodies (4 reviews)

Mosaic Theater opened its production of Adam Rapp's The Edge of Our Bodies on June 7th, 2012.
The Edge of Our Bodies was a tremendous hit at this year's Humana Festival and features Bernadette, sixteen, on the train from her New England private school to New York City to give her boyfriend some big news. Achingly articulate about all she can't know or control, this play captures a young woman at the threshold of vulnerability and experience.
Margaret M. Ledford directed a cast that featured Lexi Langs and Jim Gibbons.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
The Edge of the Our Bodies is less a play than a monologue, like a New Yorker-fiction story read aloud. For an uninterrupted 80 minutes, Bernadette (Lexi Langs), a 16-year-old woman who ceased being a girl a long time ago, will share a few days of her life while sitting, standing, leaning, smoking, dancing, and disrobing.
As a theatrical experiment, it’s a little pretentious, but playwright Adam Rapp can be forgiven — he’s clearly using the familiar solo-theater platform to reach for something postmodern and metaphysical, to disrupt the known with a few jolts of the unknown. And anyway, his words are brilliant enough to permit some obscure stagecraft.
If it seems like I’m praising the playwright too much, it’s because the actor, Langs, leaves something to be desired. An NYU student pursuing a degree in acting, Langs knows the part, and her physicality is spot-on. But her cadences are off; emphasis is placed on the wrong words, so the lines don’t land the way they should. Tears are effectively shed, but her performance is largely one of rote memorization without capturing the feelingbehind the diction. She’s wonderful at the steely-eyed glance, but the emotions beneath it remain elusive.

Part of this responsibility lands on director Margaret Ledford’s shoulders. For long stretches, especially at the beginning, Bernadette reads from her journal in static positions, losing a number of battles against monotony even if the show itself wins the war.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
There are coming of age stories and then there are coming of age stories that dig deep, make waves, and genuinely move audiences, no matter what their ages. This is Adam Rapp’s The Edge of Our Bodies, presented with authentic soul and sincerity by Mosaic Theatre to close out its eleventh season.
Throughout the 90-minute play, Langs holds court in a one-woman show, save for a disruption three quarters into the play by a maintenance man (Jim Gibbons). Through Rapp’s detailed and descriptive script, Langs’ focused characterization, and Margaret M. Ledford’s particular direction, the stage may be populated by a single actress, but Edge is brimming with characters.
We’re left to somehow figure out that the action takes place in the black box theater where Whitney Academy is about to produce The Maids. We become then a built-in, captive audience for Bernie to tell her tale. When the school’s maintenance man appears to clear the stage leaving only a ghost lamp standing, it could be that Bernie has acted out this whole charade for the benefit of us. Is her story true or the fabricated musings of a teen fiction?
There are many remarkable moments in Mosaic Theatre’s The Edge of Our Bodies, made even more spectacular by the intriguing scenic design by Douglas Grinn, sound by Matt Corey, lighting design by Suzanne M. Jones, the beautiful props by Terry Lawrence, and costume design by K. Blair Brown.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This extended monologue by a high school girl reading from her journal and acting out what she has written is by turns illuminating and opaque, precise and equivocal, comprehensible and incomprehensible. It rarely comes head on at what its heroine is feeling let alone whatever Rapp is trying to say.

If forced to guess, it’s something about a girl on the cusp of womanhood grappling with various incarnations of sex as a form of human relations. But it is likely far deeper, subtle and complex than that. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. For once, a director’s note in the program might be of some help. may find Bodies intellectually stimulating and artistically intriguing, if not emotionally fulfilling. The trick is to stop fighting the confusion and just let the play take you wherever Rapp is trying to go, much like admiring a work of non-representational art in a gallery.

You can also enjoy the calibrated performance by Lexi Langs under the precise guidance of guest director Margaret M. Ledford who unreel and reveal the heroine’s inner turmoil inch by inch.
Langs plays Bernadette, a high school junior seemingly travelling on a train from her Connecticut boarding school to New York City... she is reading to us from her journal what initially seems like a recap of the train trip.

This construct makes no sense since she seems to be telling what happened as it is happening before us. This was explained only when I Googled the original production at the Humana Festival of 2011 and discovered that this entire play is a flashback that she is relating on the stage of her school’s theater after her performance in a production of Jean Genet’s The Maids.
It’s a little purple with metaphors, just as budding writers and Rapp himself are wont. Her diary reveals that she is pregnant and is en route to tell her sweetheart, a wealthy college student in Manhattan. Initially, she seems an archetypal disaffected, emotionally blunted and precociously bright 21st Century teenager...

She continues to narrate the day’s events that include visiting her boyfriend’s terminally ill father, allowing herself to be picked up in a bar by a creepy businessman...
If not for the sudden appearance near the end of the play of a maintenance man (the always wonderful Jim Gibbons) clearing away the set of The Maids, you might think Bernadette’s just having a breakdown in an institution. Or maybe she is. Or is this Sartre’s Hell? Or….  If this seems to the Mosaic team be overthinking the play, the confusion ought to be a red flag.
Praise Ledford, a meticulous and insightful craftswoman, for divining as much as one could ask for from Rapp’s script and helping Langs forge this character.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The play is an almost-solo show, a slice-of-young-life story told by 16-year-old Bernadette, a student at an upper crust New England school. Rapp throws in snippets of dialogue from Jean Genet’s The Maids (Bernadette is in a school production of the play)...  But mostly, The Edge of Our Bodies consists of articulate, observant Bernadette reading aloud from her journal, sharing the story of her train trip to Brooklyn to tell her19-year-old boyfriend that she’s pregnant.
Lexi Langs, an experienced young actress... at first plays Bernadette as a slightly nervous, quietly introspective girl who barely manages to raise her eyes from the pages of her journal. But Langs and director Margaret M. Ledford start small for a reason.
When the school maintenance man (Jim Gibbons) finally appears, lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones floods the space with bright, unforgiving light as reality abruptly invades Bernadette’s world of remembrance, disappointment and make-believe.
The Edge of Our Bodies is vividly written, provocative, shocking, reflective. Thanks to the intricately collaborative work of Langs and Ledford, Mosaic’s production is absorbing, infused with wintry melancholy and, like a sudden snowfall, delicately beautiful.
The Edge of Our Bodies plays at Mosaic Theater through July 1, 2012.

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