Through February 9 |
JUMP Paul Robeson Theatre/African American Cultural Center
Charly Evon Simpsonís ďJumpĒ is about that most awful of family tragedies, suicide.
The story of this family is shadowed by a giant bridge.
We donít know where this city is and that doesnít matter.
What does matter is that the bridge is a central element in a community, used often by people passing from one section of the city to another and, clearly, a place where some people in utter despair jump.
Even before we learn much about the family at the center of this play, we meet Hopkins (Marcus Thompson Jr.), who actually started climbing past the safety railing to jump and suddenly pulls back.
He just canít do it and moves back up to stare at his city and ponder the present.
Thatís where he meets the equally troubled Fay (Aqueira Oshun), another denizen of the bridge, who is clearly considering jumping.
Sheís living in her own place, scrabbling to get along.
Fay is recovering from the cancer death of her mother and her estrangement from her father (Andy Finley) who has moved to his own place and is trying to move along from his wifeís death.
Thereís also sister Judy (Dayane Araujo), also distant from the family but who seems to be doing far better than her younger sister.
Dad has decided itís time to clean out the family home and sell it and the sisters are needed to decide what they want and help him pack up the rest for distribution somewhere.
For the sisters and for Dad, there are memories of the good days and the sisterly rivalries of a family and Mom running the house and also taking the kids up on the bridge walkway to look over the city, effectively using a wonderful set design and construction from Al Garrison and assistant Larry Garrison.
This isnít some dream, like the stage manager in Thornton Wilderís ďOur Town, describing the scenes in Groverís Corners to the audience members.
Instead, itís a fully realized bridge and bridge walkway, requiring less imagination from the audience.
On the bridge, Hopkins and Fay meet.
A lot of this is dramatic misdirection from the playwright, shifting viewpoints and locations.
It also builds a sense of dread since it becomes increasingly clear someone will jump and die.
The question is who is the suicide and the result is surprising.
ďJumpĒ is a shift for the Robeson.
While this theater often deals with social and family problems in the Black community, I donít remember any dealing with suicide and the audience was clearly a little tense as the story unfolded.
Who wants to admit someone in a family lost hope and killed himelf or herself?
If you look just at the statistics, a lot of Americans commit suicide by gun and many more use other methods, like jumping off a bridge.
It happens here, even with the awful attraction of Niagara Falls.
It happens and trying to understand the reasons are important because a family member might realize a relative or even a sibling is in that stage past despair and needs immediate help.
Director Paulette D. Harris keeps this relatively short show going quickly, with fast scene changes and a strong cast led by Oshun and Thompson.
For the audience, itís a play which looks at an ordinary family hit by one tragedy and then by another and who, ever, wants to be there.
Thatís true whether you are dealing is a legal family or an informal grouping.
Each needs to know what can happen if a member of that grouping despairs.
Prospective audience members need to understand there are lessons for all of us on the Robeson stage and see ďJump.Ē
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