note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark
by Jane Martin
Directed by Rick Lombardo
Scenic Design by Janie Fliegel
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Toni Bratton Elliot
Props Design by Jenifer Drew
Sound Design by David Wilson
Production Stage Manager Johnie Steele
Maura Matarese, Jenny Neale, Amy Rhodes, Ellen Stone
If you were to start at "Our Town" and draw a line through "Company" then extend it another twenty-five years, it would intersect Jane Martin's "Jack And Jill: A Modern Romance". Each of these plays defines Love & Marriage for its time, in achingly human, humanly funny terms.
At the New Repertory Theatre Cate Damon and Marc Carver are the center of attention, either engaged in dialogues or introspective monologs, through the entire show, and their energies never flag. There are quieter moments between torrents of emotion-charged interchange, but in that quiet, in the silences between words, their attention to one another only intensifies --- to the point that the smallest change in distance between them, a step forward or a step back, is intensely significant. This is a fearless pair of actors who must trust one another totally to engage one another so honestly.
In this plot, boy meets girl, boy marries girl, girl divorces boy, girl meets boy again.
At first their nervousness with one another is expressed in jumpy, nervous tics, constant interruptions, and a breakneck pace. Jack is interested, eager though cautious, persistent. Jill insists she is Not beautiful, that love doesn't exist, that she has a life to pursue that demands freedom. Jack insists on commitment, insists He is committed, that there is no one else, for either one of them. Arguing, expressing and embodying every current cliche from the battle of the sexes, they manage at one in the same time to act like types, but to feel everything as people. And though much of what they feel is painful, it's bearable because, as types, particularly in their self-analyses, they maintain an objective distance that sees the humor on it all.
The pair of actors are not really alone on Janie Fliegel's fun set. A quartet of Changers (Maura Matarese, Jenny Neale, Amy Rhodes and Ellen Stone) are onstage to hand props, assist in costume-changes, rearrange Jennifer Drew's furniture --- but they are never involved with the action. They maintain the selfless impersonality of Japanese puppeteers, never take sides, and might as well be invisible. This is a lot harder than it looks.
That fun set looks initially like a Ben Nicholson abstraction --- interlocking abstract curves and lines and planes in off-whites like contemporary furniture. Then John Malinowski's lights add a chess-set abstract cityscape, as well as pin-spot isolations of figures whose self-examinations address the audience directly. The chairs Jennifer Drew designed fit together to make a bench, then bolt together to make a table, and eventually support a bed --- all under the swift, silent manipulations of the Changers. The effect is smooth, flowing theatricality using just enough to set a scene with nothing left over to distract from the people.
Jill finds her freedom, her self-fulfilling power as a medical manager, her independence eventually empty. She turns, hesitantly, to the only person "who has ever wanted to Know me" --- and finds him hurt, defensive, suspicious. At full circle, all Jane Martin will leave these characters onstage with, will leave these characters in the audience with, is a maybe.
"Jack And Jill" you see is "A Modern Romance" --- but Jane Martin is a realist.