note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Joe Coyne
Written by John Kuntz
Directed by Matt August
Lighting Design Nicole Pearce
Scenic Design Cristina Todesco
Sound Design T. J. Derham
Costume Design Kristin Glans
Production Stage Manager Catherine A. Kemp
Kurt ... Brooks Ashmanskas
Martin ... Benjamin Evett
Alex ... Bill Mootos
A recent issue of the Boston Phoenix has a brief side bar on how “Jump Rope” came to be written. Criticism of casting gays in a questionable light inspired John Kuntz (best in “Never the Sinner”) to write a gay story without a good gay in sight. He has written a funny and interesting story line about relations of all sorts. There are sightings of interesting people who are doing no hard, but no matter, there is enough evil to go around. Bored with their continuing relationship going on to thirteen years, Martin and Alex are exhausted with each other and it shows. One is a walking recluse unable to express or even feel emotion, the other a human need on the prowl, seeking love in all of its parameters. It is hard to imagine the two could have found anything of interest in each other and have it last a night, let alone years. It is not boredom but death wish anger that consumes each of them. They are not a couple in any sense and their limited, disjointed conversations could not have them organize the weekly trash removal let alone a complicated scenario. They swear and threaten but mostly ignore. We meet them before Halloween and follow them for about a year.
The set created by Cristina Todesco successfully converts the small stage at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre into separate and distinct areas. We are within two residences and hear alternating and at times contemporaneously details on the lives and lack of love life of the three characters. Kurt is the third and an outsider (Allston). He is generally jumping rope and at times watches the others. From alternating scenes, the pace picks up until, in a nice bit of writing, all three are carrying on one conversation informing us of events. It works and is used often with crystal timing creating theatricality as it advances the story. With some stand-up material inserted along with the 10 funniest gay jokes, tempo is maintained. It is Brooks Ashmanskas as Kurt whose has the best delivery of the material and he maintains working at his delivery even as the lights fade down on him. Kuntz has written some sparkling humor. You have your California raisins, the druid routine, and two tuna salad specials; all a bit Seinfeldy but it is funny throw away comedy which mostly works and gets us off the plodding plot.
Neighbor Kurt, has been telling us mostly via stand up moments the chronicle of his life and likes. Kurt somehow stumbles into the couples apartment and finds it to his liking. He takes control of the action and plots how to gain a permanent welcome.
To complicate matters, a serial killer is strangling Boston gays. Six deaths are the talk of the town with a “KILLER” headline on the Boston Globe and voice over radio reports of the police search in the area. The implication is this is hot off the presses yet it appears to be a year old story. And that is part of the problem. Don’t revisit the plot or pay it heed: it is held together not with something half as strong as jump twine, but more like dental floss. Implausible is the word that comes to mind and it need not be with some crisp editing. Someone connected with the production should reanalyze the time line to make the story tighter and less able to divert an audience into wondering about the whys of this or that.
In Act Two, Benjamin Evett as Martin has several belated realization scenes testing his awakening emotions. Evett takes the time to make them work and in playing off of the other actors, shows some depth not utilized in the initial scenes. We see the odd manner people deal with situations and how relationships you would not be caught dead in have a way of surviving. It is Kurt who delivers the severe Christian moral of the play; dust though art and dust though shall return.
I was enthralled with Mr. Kuntz’s, “Miss Price” and I was hoping for more with “Jump Rope.” The play continues through August 18 at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at 949 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. (617-499-7785)