- OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17
As lapsed Baptists, Molly (Jenny King) and Chris (David Beckett) know that reconciliation is a serious business. True Reconciliation requires: an awareness of having “missed the mark;” an admission of that “transgression” (also known as confession); an act of forgiveness by an “other;” and the acceptance of forgiveness and the decision to “change” on the part of the “miscreant.”
Playwright Jenny King’s “Reconciliation” focuses on three dyads: former lovers Molly and Chris; current lovers Monica (JoJo Ginn) and Tate (Cesar Munoz); and estranged siblings Jane (Katie Morrill) and Charlie (Dillon Heape). Molly and Chris seek reconciliation after feeling abandoned in the past. Monica discovers Tate has posted sexually explicit photos of her online, seeks revenge (revenge sex and pink handcuffs are involved), then becomes open to reconciliation with Tate. And, following their father’s death, Jane and Charlie move through layers of deep-seated jealousy and anger to attain reconciliation (with a surprise about Jane’s family membership).
Each of these stories begins to play out separately, sharing the same set. Eventually, the stories begin to collide – first with characters from the three “plays” using the same word and letting the audience “in” on the convention by freezing or looking at the other characters. Finally, the three stories completely intertwine with characters from separate plays addressing one another, seeking assistance from one another, and even giving direction to one another. “Next,” one character booms to the character in a different play. There is a feel of reader’s theatre or a millennial Greek Chorus gone off key.
Like reconciliation, this type of theatrical convention is extremely difficult to accomplish. Impeccable timing, acute awareness of fellow cast members, and precise direction is required. In “Reconciliation,” things go better when each “play” is running as a separate piece. When the stories impede upon one another, clarity is lost, dialogue is difficult to sort out, and the actors often seem left in awkward positions on the set. It might have been better for playwright Jenny King to cast someone else as actor Molly. It is difficult to write a complex piece like “Reconciliation” and be in the cast. Her decision to perform both roles might have detracted from the overall strength of the production. Additionally, Julia Hinson's inconsistent and extempore direction needs tightening throughout.
Although the convention demonstrates that stories of reconciliation are not unique and the elements of these stories often repeat themselves, it does little here to increase the strength of the individual conflicts or their resolutions. At best, the convention does bear witness to importance of the role of the community in achieving lasting and meaningful reconciliation. There is no need for Tate, after confessing his atheism and being “shunned” by his sweaty pastor and disingenuous congregants, to become to Monica and the community “as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
“Reconciling” is presented by The New York International Fringe Festival and The Barrington Collective at The SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (between 6th Avenue and Varick Street).
The cast of “Reconciling” features, David Beckett, Dillon Heape, JoJo Ginn, Jenny King, Katie Morrill, and Cesar Munoz. Production photos by Jenny King.
For more information about the show and the cast and creative team, please visit http://www.barringtoncollective.com/reconciling. For more information about the 20th Annual New York Fringe Festival visit www.FringeNYC.org. The running time is 50 minutes.
Pictured: JoJo Ginn, Katie Morrill, Jenny King, Cesar Munoz, Dillon Heape, and David Beckett. Photographer: Jenny King.