nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 16, 2009
The two characters in Jane Bodie's play Ride are naked when we first meet them—lying in bed together, asleep under the covers. But the intimacy that they achieve with one another and with us is only scantily presaged by this fact. Bodie goes more deeply under the skins of this couple than is usually possible in an hour-and-change on stage. Ride is an insightful, touching, painfully authentic, and ultimately sweet exploration of a relationship that feels impossible and implausible and inevitable all at once.
There is a twist. This man and woman who are side by side in bed—we will not learn their names until the final two lines of the play—don't know how they got here; they don't recognize one another:
SHE: What are you doing here?
HE: Well, this is actually my bed
SHE: Oh, fuck. Did we...? I mean have we...?
HE: I'm not sure, maybe [pause] I'm not sure
So you can see where this is going, or where it might go. There's embarrassment (she has to figure out how to get dressed while maintaining modesty around this stranger), there's a bit of recrimination, and there's a whole lot of vague recollection as they try to stitch together an account of what occurred last night that led them to this point. Although some undefined force seems to be holding them together, what I liked best about Bodie's play is that the force is ineffable rather than supernatural or hyperdramatic: this is a drama about ordinary people in an ordinary time, not a modern-day Adam and Eve at the Apocalypse.
Director Nick Flint has realized Bodie's work with great care, on a mostly naturalistic set (by James Hunting) that only hints at the off-kilter nature of the situation in a couple of whimsical and subtle ways. The lighting, following the natural movements of the sun through a single cloudy window, is by Cory Pattak; it reflects and refracts the mood swings inside the story.
The actors—Jeremy Waters and Melissa Chambers—are superlative. Both create characters that are richly human in their complexity, their tentativeness, and their vulnerability. They each bring real warmth to these individuals and together display a palpable chemistry.
Ride is presented by Outhouse Theatre Company, a troupe led by Waters and fellow Australian actor Nick Stevenson. Their work is top-notch here, as usual. They are helping to bring attention to the work of Australian artists like Bodie here in the USA, and we are better for their efforts.