By Harrie Dobby
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.18.15
VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theatre at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Sarah Weber on 8.24.15
Abigail Arnold-Ochs and Rafiq Richard in The Gap.
BOTTOM LINE: Lisa and Dave build big plans and even bigger dreams to travel the world. But when Lisa finds out she’s pregnant, everything falls apart.
Generally speaking, the definition of growing up usually involves “settling down.” The choice to constantly move around the world, rather than make a home in one town, with one set of neighbors, and move up the ranks of one industry, is usually considered immature. Harrie Dobby’s The Gap follows the relationship of one couple who has chosen the travelling life, calling into question whether it’s actually better or worse than remaining sedentary.
Lisa (Abigail Arnold-Ochs) leaves her mom’s trailer park life to travel the world. It’s only her first time out of America when she falls in love with both the travelling lifestyle and with Dave (Rafiq Richard)—a tall, handsomely awkward British man. Just one week into Lisa’s trip to Asia the two fall head over heels, hastily concluding to travel the world together for the rest of their lives. It’s a beautiful idea in theory. But, it begins to fall apart when Lisa finds out she’s pregnant. She’s determined to believe they can still travel and raise a child. Dave, however, questions whether that lifestyle is best for the child—he’s not even sure he wants to travel anymore, anyway.
Along their travels Lisa and Dave meet people from all walks of life. Irish hippies Sylvie (Madeleine Brolly) and Sean (Jamie Biddle) are the show’s example of a travelling couple. They make the bulk of their living illegally selling Viagra and are happy with their lives’ spontaneity. Back in his native London, Dave’s friend Megan (Harrie Dobby) is happily settled down with her husband Andy (also Jamie Biddle). They make a legal living wage, are content with their social routines, and have a very healthy sex life. Each couple represents a choice Lisa and Dave could make together, but each becomes more drawn to one over the other.
The performances are outstanding—Arnold Ochs and Richard have such spectacular chemistry on stage that when their characters begin drifting apart we feel their pain with them. Brolly is also delightful to watch whether she’s playing the drugged-out Sylvie or Lisa’s mom, the nervous Charlene. The scene where Lisa returns “home” without any warning and confronts Charlene is an interesting window into the lifestyle Lisa’s running away from. Brolly embodies Charlene’s turmoil between being fervently angry with her daughter and desperately wanting her home. However, the scene itself doesn’t fully accomplish providing a foundation for Lisa’s wanderlust.
Being upset at Charlene at the beginning of the scene makes sense since she makes terrible assumptions about Dave just because he’s black, but Lisa only confronts that issue once. In fact, Dave is barely discussed again—instead most of the scene revolves around Charlene trying to apologize and reconnect with her daughter while Lisa’s hell-bent on severing all ties with her. Well, she’s hell-bent on severing all ties insofar as she can still mooch off of her mom’s health insurance. This scene specifically makes it challenging to take Lisa seriously throughout the rest of the play, even when she makes legitimate points during one of her many arguments with Dave.
All in all, The Gap is a thoughtful show. The Americans in the audience may need to forgive the inconsistent American accents, but that aside, Dobby has written a smart and funny reflection on what people are (or aren’t) willing to sacrifice for happiness.
(The Gap plays at VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theatre at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 18, 2015. Performances are Fri 8/14 at 5; Sat 8/15 at 7:15; Sun 8/16 at noon; Mon 8/17 at 7; and Tue 8/18 at 2:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit the-gap-play.com.)