Created by Sarah Doody, Jessica Park, and Alanna Blair; Written and Directed by Sarah Doody
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.17.15
VENUE: FREE FringeAL FRESCO—The Yard Rooftop, 85 Delancey Street
by Michael Hartung on 8.17.15
BOTTOM LINE: Both set and performed on a New York rooftop, Above Us features two women who discuss big, if perhaps clichéd, questions.
Walk up four stories of stairs (take the elevator if you prefer), pass by the doors of functioning artist studios, and exit onto a gorgeous Lower East Side rooftop performance space. This sets the mood perfectly for Above Us, part of the FringeAL FRESCO series of free site-specific work.
A wide-eyed “girl” in pink rushes out the door followed by a sauntering “woman” in black. They barely have to open their mouths before we recognize the stereotypes: the fresh-faced college grad, moving to NYC, and the jaded, seasoned New Yorker, drained of any and all excitement for the bustling metropolis. Girl (Jessica Park) is signing a sublet agreement to take over for Woman (Alanna Blair) as she leaves the city after eight, apparently long, years. We’ve caught these two women as they cross paths, one arriving, the other leaving. This devised play is set up nicely by playwright Sarah Doody with creative help from both of the actors to prepare the audience for what is sure to be an intriguing conversation.
It isn’t long before two beers come out, a sign for everyone on the roof, audience and actors alike, to settle into their seats. As Woman begrudgingly attempts to satisfy Girl’s plea for advice, Above Us quickly delves into some pretty hefty questions: What is home? Is New York changing or self-destructing? What makes a “New Yorker”? What is good or bad art? Is “the struggle” in fact real? These weighty questions and more are piled one on top of the other and left me with a slightly clichéd taste in my mouth.
Through their conversation, which Doody’s direction tries hard to keep physically active, we are let in on more of Girl and Woman’s circumstances (both are artists, Girl has chased her college crush to New York, Woman has lost several failed relationships to the monster that is her NYC). What really grounds this play is the way that Doody and set designer Kaylee Harris have harnessed the environment. The audience is brought into this story not only by Woman’s art displayed around the roof, but the thumping club music from next door, the rumbling generator, the noisy traffic on the street, and the gorgeous sunset above us.
Though Above Us will hit a particularly relevant chord with the “New York Artist,” most anyone will think "that’s me!" at least once as they relate to the changes that both of the woman are experiencing. While it toes the edge of cliché, I couldn’t help but leave the rooftop thinking. This site-specific piece serves as a wonderful reminder to look up at what’s above us and how it affects our past, present, and future.
(Above Us plays at VENUE: FREE FringeAL FRESCO—The Yard Rooftop, 85 Delancey Street, through August 17, 2015. Performances are Sat 8/15 at 6:30; Sun 8/16 at 6:30; and Mon 8/17 at 6:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are free but arrive early as seats are limited. For more information visit tandembicycleproductions.com.)