By Jenny King; Directed by Julia Hinson
Produced by The Barrington Collective
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #15: SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
by Taylor Black on 8.22.16
JoJo Ginn and Cesar Muñoz; Katie Morrill and Dillon Heape; Jenny King and David Beckett in Reconciling. Photo by Jenny King.
BOTTOM LINE: Playing three scenes simultaneously, Reconciling is a superb piece of theatre craft that explores the ways our stories are often more alike than different.
When theatre lovers discuss what makes the Fringe festival so special, it constantly comes back to uniqueness. At its best, Fringe allows for work that is envelope-pushing, ambitious, and risky, backed up by the passion and love of craft that sustains the theatre world. Reconciling hits all these notes and goes beyond, offering an exceptional demonstration of the art of live theatre at its best.
With Reconciling, the London-based Barrington Collective takes one big risk: the show tells the story of three couples simultaneously. What emerges is a heartfelt blending of stories that are very different on the surface, revealing how relationships can have so much in common and yet have vastly different outcomes.
The cast divides into three male-female duos. Molly (Jenny King) and Chris (David Beckett) are old exes. After a refusal of Chris’ Baptist faith caused the couple to split up, Molly comes to win Chris back after the church’s support fails her when she needed it most.
The second scene involves Monica (Jojo Ginn) getting over her abusive ex, having finally called it quits when he posted revenge porn of her online. Hooking up with best friend Tate (Cesar Muñoz), she finds that the post actually came from Tate in an attempt to push her into leaving a toxic relationship. Tate spends the entire play in pink fuzzy handcuffs, as Monica decides what form her own revenge will take.
Finally, Charlie (Dillon Heape) and Jane (Katie Morrill) return from the funeral of their father, whom Jane cared for in the final years of his life while Charlie struck out on his own. The tension rises as the two argue over who was really the favored child, and both re-discover their shared affection in the wake of a great loss.
Describing the separate plot lines, however, does little justice to the experience. The three stories are layered atop each other, with one narrative interjecting into the next and characters frequently sharing lines, using the same language to express very different sentiments. The mirroring and reflection in the dialogue offers endless juxtapositions—where Molly and Chris argue while Charlie sings “It’s A Small World” at the top of his lungs, where the reading of a will mirrors the fallout of revenge porn, and where at one point all six characters cluster in the center in a loud and jumbled shouting match.
In the second half of the show, characters begin to break into each other’s stories, asking for support from one another or taking on the role of minor characters in flashbacks. As the stories move from conflict to climax, it becomes clear that reconciliation will have very different consequences for each pair. When the emotional moments become too overwhelming, characters begin to call “next!” to put another couple on the spot, and delay their own point of no return a little longer. The emotional payoff comes eventually, though, leaving one pair coming together, one finding common ground, and one left alone with their regret.
The show’s layering works because it is done with tremendous skill, both on the part of the actors and director Julia Hinson. Hinson’s staging is subtle and seamless, allowing the audience constant opportunities for discovery in small moments where Charlie points to Tate while directing a line at Molly, or actors mirror a gesture from the previous story in a very different context. The simultaneity, which could easily become gimmicky or tiresome, is expertly handled by a cast with excellent chemistry and skill, and the show is very well-rehearsed. Each story has the basic format of any good theatrical scene—there is conflict, there is catharsis, and eventually, there is resolution—but the constant layering and comparison elevates these simple stories into a spiraling, poetic exploration of life at its toughest moments. Mixing comedic and dramatic elements, the writing brings heart and sincerity to the characters, and breaks the tension at just the right times.
Reconciling’s beauty is the kind which can only happen in live theatre, and it is a joy to see a young, ambitious group of theatre practitioners harness their craft so well.
(Reconciling plays at VENUE #15: SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 50 minutes. Performances are Sun 8/14 at 7:30; Thu 8/18 at 5:45; Tue 8/23 at 2; Thu 8/25 at 8:30; and Sat 8/27 at 6. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit barringtoncollective.com.)
Reconciling is by Jenny King. Directed by Julia Hinson, Assistant Director is Emma Lee Roddy. Sound Design is by Ryan Swift Joyner.
The cast is Jenny King, David Beckett, Dillon Heape, Jojo Ginn, Katie Morrill, and Cesar Muñoz.