BWW Review: SENDER at Urbanite Theatre
There have been very few plays I've seen that I felt fully embodied my experience as a young woman struggling to "adult," as many call it. Ike Holter's Sender, which is now playing at the Urbanite Theatre through February 23, is one of those plays.
Fast-paced and engrossing, Sender opens on Lynx (L. James), a young man who disappeared for a year and was thought to be dead, standing on the porch of his ex-girlfriend, Tess (Mary Williamson). He's there to "fix" his relationship with her and his best friend, Jordan (Ryan Leonard).
Lynx soon finds out that mending things is easier said than done. It turns out that a lot has changed since Lynx has been gone. Tess went to rehab and is now making celery smoothies. Free-wheeling Jordan married Cassandra (DeAnna Wright), moved to the 'burbs, and is a soon-to-be father.
Lynx's return gets mixed reviews. Tess reams Lynx out, alternating between anger and shock. Jordan cries and hugs his friend (for what some people would consider an inappropriate length of time.) Cassandra, who, like her Greek mythical counterpart, sees the truth about people, offers to pay Lynx thousands of dollars to disappear and never come back. She became the glue that kept their little family together once Lynx left and she will do anything to prevent him from taking that away from her.
With 24 hours to decide whether to take the money or not, Lynx decides to have one last blowout with Tess and Jordan. There's drinking, debauchery, and dreams of living like vagabonds in the Wisconsin wilderness. In the morning, they have to face way more than just a hangover. They have to face reality and the true condition of their lives.
For many, Sender is about four millennials' struggle to transition into adulthood, and that is certainly one of the play's prevailing themes. Tess is a college graduate who walks dogs for a living, and Jordan depends completely on Cassandra for financial support. That doesn't exactly sound like they've got it "figured out," does it?
But for me, a millennial, the play is about a family - whose members don't share blood - saying goodbye. Sender reminds me of family dramas like August: Osage County, where one event stirs up a tornado of emotions and conflict. Lynx returns expecting that he's going to be greeted with open arms as if he is the Prodigal Son. When he is not, he begins to realize that disappearing for a year without so much as a text message is something he can't come back from.
Holter's dialogue is snappy and authentic -i t reminds me of several conversations I've had with my own friends. There is one moment when Jordan and Tess argue about who is worse off due to their student debt. This conversation has happened with my friends many times, and I know we're not the only people who have gone head-to-head over our misfortune.
Brendan Ragan's direction is sharp, starting the play off with a level of tension and mystery that carries through until the lights go out. The acting is stellar-from James' focused portrayal of the mysterious Lynx, never revealing too much about his past or his motives, to Wright's heartbreaking performance as Cassandra, a woman who gives everything but gets nothing in return.
Whether you're a millennial like me or belong to another generation, Sender follows a family falling apart and contains insight for us all.
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