Review by Barbare Sturua
Balloons, red disposable cups, birthday hats, and empty alcohol bottles do not make a celebration. The holiday or decorations don’t matter when the party is only temporary like the “Happy New Year” sign falling upstage of the play “The Great Divide” which premiered on October 6 at the HERE Arts Center and will run until October 22, directed by Scott Ebersold. The one-woman play written and performed by Amy Crossman reminds the audience that the real celebration is in the simplicity of everyday life, its ups and downs, self-doubts, and the complexity of relationships.
The play tells the story of a young couple in New York. The protagonist’s boyfriend, Elijah, moves to Rhode Island after a year-long relationship to do masters at Brown University. The distance separates them both physically and emotionally. While the protagonist tries to move on from the old relationship, Elijah commits suicide as he is experiencing mental health problems, what puts the Crossman’s character through the trial of grief and sorrow.
Everyone knows someone like her: a woman who just graduated college, moved to New York, and lives with their parents until she finds a job. At the start of the play we see the actress at a New Year’s party standing in the bathroom and questioning the audience or rather herself, is Elijah gonna kiss her at midnight? It is a story of an ordinary girl, who tells us a different perspective of suicide tragedy.
The universality of the play goes beyond the ordinary fuss of everyday life. It addresses grief and loss, experiences that society often avoids talking about. As the protagonist leaves us in a deafening silence after a cathartic monologue, it makes the audience alter the thought that death is part of the journey of life, but death means that one has lived and until we have time we should embrace and enjoy every moment of it.
Sometimes nothing can heal unfinished relationships. No words or a million phone calls can soothe the pain of grief, only time can make it part of life. It never disappears, but Crossman leaves us with a positive note by asking the final question, “Which way is the toilet?” Every day is a chance to get back up and continue living rather than surviving.
Crossman’s humorous writing mocks the irony of everyday life, as well as her utterly relatable character and naturalistic performance. On a set designed by Paul Birtwistle, Sam Kaseta, Ant Ma, Brynne Oster-Bainnson, and Derek Van Heel, the stage is transformed into a party scene, to a bathroom, a bedroom, and the New York City subway with ease.
Theater should be accessible to all, especially when plays like “The Great Divide” touch upon important topics such as suicide, mental health, and alcoholism. Talking about these matters with delicacy serves a larger purpose of raising awareness and letting us know we’re not alone. Boomerang Theatre Company makes it accessible to all and offers ten tickets priced at $10 for every performance on a first come, first served basis. The play is a tragicomedy, where the audience laughs during the performance but once you are just about to leave the theater it might make you shed a tear and look at those unimportant, ordinary details of life with more curiosity.