By David Walters
Now playing at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Black Box Theatre is a play called the bandaged place, by Harrison David Rivers, which was developed as part of the Roundabout Underground program for emerging playwrights. It is storytelling at its finest.
Director David Mendizábal, with his staging, has designed the production to be seen on many levels. His movement choices (even within the scene changes) reflect each character’s inner life and express feelings and desires beyond the lines that each character says. A play that operates on several levels like this becomes poetry, beginning with the title coming from a poem by Mevlana Rumi, here.
The story is a family dealing with loss. Loss and bad choices. Both in the present and those dragged forward from the past. Loss leaves holes in our bodies that we struggle with our whole lives, to fill, to bandage, learn from, and to live with.
As the main character, Jonah (played elegantly by Jhardon Dishon Milton, with a warm vulnerability rising through the pain), bowed but not broken, struggles with an injury that has sidelined him from his dance career. As he recuperates, he struggles with his feelings of longing for a past bad relationship that had temporarily, he felt, filled those holes within himself. The dance sequences of memory and imagination with Ruben (his ex, powerfully played by Anthony Lee Medina) are touching, expressive, and emotionally fulfilling. His dance sequence with his newer healthier relationship (played with a hesitant groundedness of vulnerability by Jake Ryan Lozano) expresses a joy and playfulness of spirit that is clawing its way out of Jonah’s dark abyss.
The dancing within this play does not stop the action but deepens it in much the same way a song in a musical can illustrate a character’s feelings in a different way than a speech.
Again, the bandaged place is good storytelling.
Rounding out the cast is Stephanie Berry (a powerhouse as a performer exhibiting enormous strength and love as she tries to make up for past mistakes) as Jordan’s grandmother, Geraldine, who not only raised him but is now raising his daughter, her great grandchild (played with a charming precocious sweetness, alternately by Phoenix Noelle and Sasha Manuel).
The ending line of the poem from which the title of the play is plucked, “And don’t believe for a moment that you’re healing yourself,” is the core to this family drama. It’s a must-see, heartfelt, truthful in the writing and acting, vulnerable, and completely satisfying.
the bandaged place, written by Harrison David Rivers, and directed by David Mendizábal of The Movement Theatre Company
The cast Includes Stephanie Berry, Jake Ryan Lozano, Sasha Camille Manuel, Anthony Lee Medina, Jhardon Dishon Milton, and Phoenix Noelle
The smashing creative team that added so much to this production includes set designer Wilson Chin, costume designer Ásta Bennie Hostetter, sound designer and composer Mauricio Escamilla, choreographer Tislarm Bouie, and fight and intimacy director Rocio Mendez.
Running time: One hour and forty-five minutes. No intermission.
As always, this is just one man’s opinion in a world filled with them.