by Jody Key – Managing Editor — June 14, 2019
Sisters are a precious commodity. Growing up as the youngest of five girls, I know my sisters always have my back. When my dad passed away, my sisters were there and have been there since to grieve and reminisce. We all deal with grief in very personal ways, and JUMP, the new work offering from Actor’s Express, explores the issues of grief and suicide while weaving a heartwrenching yet heartwarming tale of one family’s journey dealing with the grief of their mother who passed of cancer.
JUMP is a rolling works premier offered by the National New Play network, of which Actor’s Express is a Core Member. It’s only been seen at four theaters across the nation: Actor’s Express in the ATL, PlayMakers Repertory Company (Chapel Hill), Confrontation Theatre and Milago (Portland), and Shrewd Productions (Austin). Each city’s production has a different director, actors, and technical elements.
JUMP’s Playwright, Charly Evon Simpson, is fresh from a very successful run Off Broadway with her work BEHIND THE SHEET which was one of the most acclaimed plays of 2019. She has been following JUMP to each city, making rewrites along the way based on audience reaction. The reaction in Atlanta has been favorable, as this play is surprisingly exceptional. Mainstream theater goers should look beyond the MAMMA MIA! and NEWSIES productions and see this play at it’s inception, as it has the potential to move toward the Great White Way. It’s relevant, topical, and leaves us thinking about the wonderful mess that is love and life.
Director Lydia Fort took Simpson’s work and brought it to life with an inventive set by scenic designer Emmie Finckel. Actor’s Express is this wonderful convertible blackbox which I love because every production they do is so different. I always wonder what the seating configuration will be and it’s almost like the anticipation of opening a birthday present right before walking into the space. The stage is a bridge spanning the middle of the space with sparse elements of a house on either side. A recliner and ottoman on one side to depict a living room and a bed on a colorful rag rug with a hope chest at the end to depict the girl’s bedroom. below the bridge is an element that depicts water. This stage allows for seamless transitions of house to bridge scenes. Lighting by Christopher Dills accents the set beautifully and the subtle sounds of an city outdoors peppered in by sound designer Chris Lane tops off the illusion.
Cyrah Hill plays Fay, the main character who is working through the grief of her mother, is a complex study. She is seeing flashes of light followed by intense pains in her head, and spends her time on the bridge her mother and sister used to traverse together. Cyrah’s performance is raw, powerful and poignant.
On the bridge, Fay meets Hopkins, played by Gil Eplan-Frankel. Hopkins contemplates jumping, but is saved by a dance break he shares with Fay. In the end, he saves her as much as she saves him. Gil portrays a good ying to Fay’s yang, and brings to life a very likable person who becomes an unintentional hero.
Btittani Minnieweather’s performance as Fay’s seemingly self-assured and confident sister Judy is brilliant. She directs Fay in the packing of the bedroom and takes joy in the childhood ritual of “flopping on the bed”. Yet under her confident facade, she has her own insecurities which Brittani expertly unfolds as the story progresses.
Gerard Catus as Fay’s dad depicts the stilted relationship they share. He chooses to grieve by imbibing as if a hi-ball glass is an extension of his arm; however, he’s a slow drinker as he never really appears fully drunk. His decision to sell the house results in Fay’s willingness to help pack, and works to repair their relationship.
As the suicide rate in the USA is at its highest rate in a half-century, this is a play for those left behind. It dares to explore a subject that was once swept under the rug in a way that resonates hope for survivors. Charly Evon Simpson’s inspiration for the play was an article she read in the New York Times about Golden Gate Bridge jumpers who had survived.
JUMP plays at actor’s express until June 23rd.
Purchase tickets online at actors-express.com or by calling 404-607-7469.
Student tickets are always $20. Regular ticket prices range from $20 – $50. Ticket prices are subject to availability. Order early for best pricing. Group pricing is available. For info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.