The Small of Her Back

Russell Leigh Sharman
Jaradoa Theater Company
The 411 Theater, New York City
(2008)

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Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US theatre.

This two-hander is a neat package for any small theater company looking to produce something vaguely socially conscious and reflective of modern internet relationships; certainly Sharman captures the tentative steps of an online relationship with more realism than one tends to see in this sort of piece. His text demonstrates a fine understanding of both the rhythms of language and the careful emotional connections that can be formed between two human beings who never actually met face to face.

Without reducing his mentally unbalanced leads to stereotypes, Sharman puts together a series of events (rather unfortunate ones, at that) which bring John (Jeremy O'Grady) to Piper's (Eileen Rivera) door. Claiming to be the brother of Piper's internet lover, his ostensible missionis to prevent Piper from killing herself.

Sharman's text is rife with witty dialogue and keen word play, which he cleverly explains as part of Piper's "cognitive OCD". Rivera's performance is assured and enticing, and despite her characters' psychoses she still manages to draw the audience in. Less able is her co-star; O'Grady's flat, forced delivery makes identification, and therefore sympathy, difficult.

Although the fast-moving dialogue is at first deceiving, the clock on the wall of Piper's apartment soon highlights just how slowly the actual story unfolds. Sharman probably has enough material here for an hour or so, but at eighty-five minutes there were long sections that felt talky. The pitch of the play rarely changes enough to make for an engaging pace, and by the time everyone's cards have been laid on the table, this glimpse into the lives of two severely disturbed individuals has overstayed its welcome.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody