Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly working airplane? That’s my stock response to the question, “hey wanna go skydiving?” and I think I’m proven correct on that after watching Plan-B’s excellent production of Jump a new work by local playwright Austin Archer.
Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane it turns out is a bad idea for Erick (Matthew Sincell), a skydiving instructor strapped to Phil (Darryl Stamp) a 60-year-old who is working out some personal stuff by getting way out of his comfort zone. While the young cocky, Erick is certainly the kind of person who would jump out of a plane with a giant cloth as a safety device, Phil is most certainly not. The play opens with Erick and Phil poised for their dive, with a quavering Phill reciting statistics about parachuting failures like a rosary.
I promise I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you that the jump doesn’t go well. It’s the central premise of the play. Erick wakes up in the hospital weeks after the jump, Phil didn’t survive. The play embarks on a quest for Erick to recover his memories of the incident, suffer the guilt of surviving and piece his life back together. He has help from his flirty doctor Michelle (Nicki Nixon) who soon becomes his girlfriend. Soon after the couple couples Phil’s widow, Abigail (Teri Cowan) enters the picture and things get heavy.
But not so heavy. Gravity and escape from its pull is a constant theme in Archer’s play. It is a meditation on loss, recovery, survival and facing what we all must face, our own ends. With such a dirge of topics to trudge through, Jump could easily be a sad slog, a maudlin “why god, why!” play. But it manages to be light, airy optimistic even. Archer’s dialogue is winning an authentic, in a world where were are inundated with twee meet-cutes and romantic comedy’s his courtship banter between Erick and Michelle, manages to be fresh and real. And Nixon and Sincell, play this unlikely romance well so that it makes sense, even as it falls apart in an also well crafted set of lines that manage to avoid the usual cliches of couple fights.
Phil’s widow Abigail is a bright soul, searching for answers and Cowan plays her with ebullience and care. Her entry into Erick’s life is unsettling and upsets his carefully reconstructed world but her motherly charms win him over and together they literally jump into a new place together.
Finally, our fretting faller Phil, is kindly played by Stamp. His neurotic statistics, reciting facts about the history of the parachute (which are really interesting) and final embrace of his doom is acted with depth and a wink.
No. Jump is not the feel good play of the year, it is after all about a lot of bad things. But it faces those bad things, which we all eventually must face, with courage and laugher we all left the Rose a little wiser for the time.
Jump continues through April 15 at Plan-B Theatre in the Rose Wagoner Performing Arts Center. Tickets are going fast. If you strike out, Plan-B’s wait list is a a solid bet. To get on the list, go to the box office at the Rose Wagner, one hour before curtain. Go hang out at Squatter’s or something until five minutes before showtime when they fill empty seats. For more information, go to here.