BWW Review: Exquisite Storytelling Makes the PlayMakers' World Premiere of Charly Simpson's JUMP a Must-See
How many articles have you read in the last four years about high-profile celebrity suicides wherein family members and friends said, "I had no idea"? And out of the 47,173 people in the United States who died by suicide in 2017 (according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention), what, if anything, could've kept these beloved fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters from taking that leap or wanting to disappear?
Depression, grief, suicide, and mental illness are just some of the themes Charly Simpson explores in her new play JUMP, which opened at PlayMakers Repertory Company last weekend. The opening is part of a New Play National Network rolling world premiere that includes Milagro and Confrontation Theatre (Oregon), Shrewd Productions (Texas), and Actor's Express (Georgia). However, this is the first time the play has been fully staged, and this production sets the bar high for future productions.
April Mae Davis' tenacious portrayal of Fay, the ruminative main character coping with the death of her mother among other things, is captivating. She steers the piece swerving between the past and present, what's real or imagined, hope and despair, without restraint. Shanelle Nicole Leonard's measured portrayal of Fay's sister Judy is perfect. And Adam Poole's standout performance as Hopkins, the unlikely stranger Fay meets on a bridge, is deliberate and truly profound.
Director Whitney White cradles Simpson's play with kid-gloves, surrendering to the language, rhythm, physicality, and theatricality of the piece.
Adding to the theatricality is Alexis Distler's striking set, at the center of which is an imposing, looming bridge that extends from one end of the stage to the other. The bridge serves both as a physical and metaphorical manifestation of what's going on throughout the play. Notable too is Amith Chandrashaker's moody lighting, along with Sinan Refik Zafar's sound design, both of which effectively contribute to the overall feel, tone, and uncertainty of the piece.
Born out of Simpson's personal struggles with depression, in part due to her experience as a teenager in New York coping with the aftermath of 9/11, JUMP asks some hard questions: How can we protect each other? How do we ease the burden of someone who is hurting, suffering, grieving? What is it that keeps us from jumping?
While not offering any definitive answers, Simpson's richly layered script does offer a ray of hope that connection is possible IF we pull together the courage to reach out, listen, and trust one another. It's thought-provoking, cautionary storytelling that does what theater does best: informs, enlightens, entertains, and (hopefully) brings us closer together.
JUMP runs through February 10th at PlayMakers Repertory Company. For more information visit: http://playmakersrep.org/.