Teenage angst. Wondering what the world holds in store. Definite opinions about almost everything. Thinks women are dumb, and hates phonies and people who try to crush your fingers when you shake hands with them. 16-years-old and a junior at an exclusive prep school.
Sounds like classic Holden Caulfield, the memorable character in "Catcher in the Rye."
Teenage angst. A view of men as "middle aged ass-less-ness." Sees someone with a "face like lunchmeat." 16-years-old and a junior at an exclusive prep school.
Just like Holden Caulfield. But this one comes complete with a white blouse, a tie, a tartan kilt and a pair of white knee socks. Instead of Holden, we have Bernadette, whose story is told in "The Edge of Our Bodies," the Adam Rapp play that opened at Youngblood Theatre over the weekend.
Caulfield is the epitome of the disaffected teenager, seemingly disgusted by the life around him while torn with wonder over what he is going to do with his life, now and when he is older. He is teenage angst.
The girl version of Caulfield is Bernadette, played in this production with stunning depth by Megan Kaminsky. It is essentially a one-woman play, with a brief and slightly disconcerting appearance near the end by a maintenance man who strips all the trappings from her life.
Bernadette is a privileged teen. A student at a tony prep school. A summer home. But there are dark corners in her life.
She is 16 and pregnant. We first see her on a train to New York to find her 19-year-old boyfriend Michael and tell him about her pregnancy. She reads from her personal journal as she rides the train, letting us in on the well-defined observations she makes.
Like teenagers over the world, she is not shy about her opinions and perfectly willing to have an opinion about everything around her. She includes herself in her judgements.
"Lying always makes me feel like my hair is falling out," she snaps thoughtfully, as her journey to Michael draws closer.
We see many of the truths in Bernie’s life, even though she may have incredible difficulties seeing them herself.
She has a mind that is uncluttered by uncertainty. She gives delicious renderings of her encounters with an old man on the train, the dying father of her boyfriend and the mysterious man – "Mark with a C" – who she allows herself to be picked up by and taken back to his hotel where it turns out his name is really Richard Romero. It’s okay, though, because she had introduced herself to him as Diana.
At some point, you want to stand up and shout at her to stop wallowing and get on with her life. Her father is having an affair with a stewardess, her mother wants to have an affair with somebody and Bernadette has a well-defined view of her own sexuality.
Like Holden Caulfield, Bernadette’s diligent belief in her grasp of life hides a child bedeviled with the kind of things that sort themselves out only with experience and age.
Kaminsky’s performance is a marvel to behold.
For 90 minutes, the stage is hers and she wraps us up in a soft, sensuous hold that keeps us riveted. She understands that this play is a series of memorable moments that eventually wind together into a spectacular whole.
She has a quiver full of arrows, and the audience is her target. She tells the stories, and we listen.
Rarely will you see a play with such an intimate connection between an actor and an audience. She has our curiosity, our sympathy, our amazement, our joy and sadness and most of all, our love.
Youngblood has developed a history of presenting brave and unique shows. This certainly fits. A 16-year-old girl talking about being in a hotel room with a stranger, baring her breasts to stimulate him and describing the act of watching him in detail demands serious attention from a serious audience.
The best thing about Kaminsky is how clearly she brings an added dimension to Bernadette. Many people think she is just running away from her life or running to something she thinks is better.
Under Kaminsky’s outstanding performance, it’s clear that Bernadette is doing both.
"The Edge of Our Bodies" runs through March 1. Information is available at http://youngbloodtheatre.com.
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