Callie Stribling @the ATA: Written in the Stars and Suic!de Bridge

Written in the Stars by James Jennings and Suicide Bridge by Charles Kipps make for a thoughtful paring of one act plays. When put together, playing on the same bill as they are at the American Theatre of Actors, they talk a lot about what it means to do something with your life.

Also directed by Jennings, Written in the Stars finds Sondra, played by Ginger Kipps, frustrated and angry at the state of the world. She argues with her friend, Millie, played by Marie Laine, about wanting to actually do something to help the thousands upon thousands of women she hears about in the news being repressed, tortured, and killed by oppressive regimes. Forget the fact they’re getting older and she’s now using a walker to get around, Sondra is ready to board a plane to Iran and fight. Millie just wants to get her to get outside her apartment for a drink to stop brooding, convinced that their days of protesting and causing good trouble are behind, at least for her. 

The performances are great, with Kipps bringing real passion and frustration to Sondra and Laine showing Millie’s compassion and concern for her long time friend beautifully. It’s a delicate balance the two find together showing the struggle between wanting to actually do something besides just talk and keeping the fire burning when you’ve spent so long fighting. The biggest failing in the script seems to be that it ignores the fact there are plenty of worthwhile causes to fight for right at home, including for women’s rights. Islamic extremists are an easy target to point a finger at when talking about the oppression of women, but it feels like the play is saying these bad things are happening only on the other side of the world. 

Suicide Bridge, directed by Ginger Kipps, is the arguably stronger of the two one acts. An out of luck man named Vance (Alan Hasnas) climbs up a bridge to jump, only to find a young woman named Joanna (Isabelle van Natta) already there bracing herself to do the same. The two play perfectly off of each other, two vastly different people both feeling at the end of their ropes and connecting to one other in unexpected ways in this most unusual of circumstances. Both are compelling to watch and bring a lot of humor to a darkly funny script. It brings the laughs, but also discussions on faith and belief, a lot of care and sympathy for these two characters, and again pokes at the question of what do you want to be able to say you did with your life (or what might be a good and understandable reason for wanting to end it).

Sadly, the program makes no mention of any design team or tech crew at all, and Suicide Bridge in particular could have benefited from lighting design different from some uncolored lights brightly illuminating the whole area, but the directors managed to make do. Jennings opens his play with just a single lamp to great effect, and Ginger Kipps makes some dynamic staging out of a show that has two or three actors spending a lot of time just sitting on a platform against a wall for much of the time.

The production value may be small scale, but they’re absolutely the kind of pieces that benefit from intimate setting letting you focus on the performances and the words. These plays place a lot of value on human life and how we value it. While they have room to grow, they absolutely have you leave the theater with plenty of food for thought.

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