The Edge of our Bodies runs through November 20 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The theater describes the show this way:
"It's a bitter winter night when 16-year-old Bernadette, an aspiring short story writer, boards a train to New York City carrying her notebook and important news for her boyfriend. What follows is a searing and poetic coming-of-age story as Bernadette intimately shares her encounters along the way and the devastating result of her visit, a journey punctuated by both a need to be heard and an aching desire to disappear."
Ali Rose Dachis stars in "The Edge of Our Bodies" at the Guthrie Theater
Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp
While many critics applaud the performance of Ali Rose Dachis, others find fault with the play as a whole. Read the review excerpts below; click on the links to read the full reviews.
What distinguishes playwright Adam Rapp's accessible, dryly humorous script from the average coming-of-age tale is its meta-theatrical formal structure: for almost the entire play, Bernie (Ali Rose Dachis) is the only character on stage. She's telling a story, seemingly about herself, but we learn that she's an aspiring fiction writer, so the story may not be entirely true...
...Though the script does a lot of huffing and puffing to blow down all the usual houses, the Guthrie production is well-served by Dachis's focused, often riveting performance and by Benjamin McGovern's dextrous direction.
According to the program, Rapp based this talking jag on stage on conversations with a female friend who used to tell him about how alone she used to feel riding the train to her own prep school. Evidently, Rapp never pressed this friend with some fundamental questions, including the one I was burning to ask Bernadette - the play's central character - throughout the evening: "Listen, you snotty, spoiled, self-involved, think-you've-got-problems little brat: Could you possibly take five seconds of your precious, privileged little life to get over yourself?"
...Sometimes, "The Edge of Our Bodies" is maddening in its myopia. Other times, it's dreary in its smallness of vision. Occasionally, it makes you laugh. But mostly, it leaves you fatigued and - if young Bernadette is a sign of things to come - a little depressed for the future.
Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp
Rapp has crafted a complex, breathing creation that is, in turn, fully inhabited by Dachis. Alone onstage except for one, short scene, Dachis takes all of the audience's focus and uses it as additional fuel for her performance. Though Bernadette is often low-key -- perhaps unsure of the conflicting emotions bubbling beneath the surface -- Dachis brings out the pain and confusion so central to the little lost girl.
In the end, it's this performance that makes The Edge of Our Bodies worth our time. On the page, Bernadette may have come off as absolutely self-absorbed, not seeing the reality that all of the other characters face, but the performance gives it nuance beyond just the written word. Which, in the end, is one of the reasons why we go to the theater.
Rapp's writing is lovely. Bernadette's jottings would never fly as prose fiction, but they masterfully create an intelligent, poised, frightened young woman. The Catcher In The Rye influence is obvious, but Bernadette lacks Holden Caulfield's bitterness and fake-maturity; she really is mature and much more compelling as a result.
But. I have a reviewer's obligation to point out that The Edge Of Our Bodies is, essentially, a one-hander. The action is mostly past tense - we hear about Bernadette's journey, her encounters. There is some present tense action, as Bernadette struggles to maintain her composure, but this doesn't, in my opinion, sustain the whole play. Why, I kept wondering, aren't we seeing the wonderful scenes with Wayne, with Marc, et al? I felt frustrated.
"Edge" has a straightforward, simile-laden elegance that will delight lovers of language, even as its character's mature mastery of language, literature and craft sometimes strains credulity. What 16-year-old, no matter how precocious, writes and speaks like this?
Bernadette (Dachis) wants to be a writer and an actor. She is on her way to New York, where she plans a surprise visit with her 19-year-old boyfriend. She has sobering news.
We know this, and most everything else, because Bernadette tells us so, often reading from her diary. Playwright Rapp has given us a coming-of-age story ripped from the pages of the New Yorker. "Edge" feels inspired, stylistically and in subject matter, by the likes of John Cheever and John Updike.
Have you seen The Edge of Our Bodies?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.