By Gray Thomas
The production of Jump by Austin Archer at Plan-B Theatre Company in Salt Lake City follows suit for productions produced by Flying Bobcat Productions. The show is unconventional in almost every way compared to various other productions around Salt Lake City and Utah as a whole. While the actors and the script must jump around in time and space, the play tells a near seamless story that is anchored with strong and balanced acting choices.
The play opens with two characters, Erick (Matthew Sincell) and Phil (Teri Cowan) on a minimal blue set, with the exception of a few boxes that serve as interchangeable and dynamic props throughout the show. Immediately, the contrast between Erick and Phil is clear: Erick is a young, daring skydiver who is confident and charming as he tries to relax Phil, an older timid professional who is unaccustomed to taking risks such as skydiving. They sit near two suspension straps which hold them aloft to simulate the instability of falling through the air. Paralyzed with fear, Phil recites statistical dangers of skydiving while Erick reassures him that the chances of a complication are almost zero. When they jump, the dialogue transforms into a kind of prose poem as they describe the sensation of falling. Then, the improbable happens, as the parachute fails to open. While Erick survives the fall and Phil passes away. The rest of the play follows Erick as he navigates through his injuries, flashbacks, and traces of traumatic brain injury. He must cope with the guilt of letting down one of his clients, the grief of Phil’s widow, Abigail (Teri Cowan), while attempting to decipher a burgeoning romance between himself and his doctor, Michelle (Nicki Nixon).
More than the idea of “jumping,” this play centers around the idea of “falling.” Of course, there are multiple meanings of “fall.” The literal meaning of which the story begins is apparent. As a romance grows between two of the characters, there is the figurative meaning of “fall.” Another connotation is that of stumbling, which the main character must do literally throughout the play but also figuratively as he slips in and out of delusions due to his sustained traumatic brain injury. Of course, all of these falls begin with a jump. At one point during a surreal contemplation between Erick and Phil, Phil states a line to the effective “What if we are not falling, but we accidentally learn how to float.” This concept is certainly relevant to anyone who has ever been at an impasse in life.
The script (by local playwright Austin Archer) and the plot is enthralling, as it builds distinct personalities for each character. Timelines interweave to create great tension and unexpected twists that keep the audience on their seat. While a complex plot line might be a drawback to some audiences, the way the lighting (Pilar I.) and sound design (Cheryl Cluff) come together to create subtle and effective changes and help guide the audience’s attention through the story. Furthermore, the simple stage (Cara Pomeroy), furnished with boxes that serve as dynamic props for each scene, and two posts from which suspension straps are strung taut, allow the audience to hone in on the plot points. Additionally, the decision to paint the entire set sky blue is a great touch that gives the sense of a constant state of suspension in the air, continually falling.
The audience that I sat with was clearly engaged, particularly in moments when characters in the cast would step to the edge of the stage and stare directly at them. The tension was palpable throughout, and the time seemed to zip by. If you are looking for a play that is innovative and captivating, this is your play. Tickets tend to go quickly for Plan-B Theatre plays, so don’t wait to get your ticket now!
Plan B Theatre and Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory present Jump by Austin Archer
Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center138 W 300 S, SLC, UT
April 5-15, 2018; Thursday-Friday at 8:00 PM, Saturday at 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM, Sunday at 2:00 PM
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