by Ed Malin · August 18, 2015
Jennifer Bareilles, Harrison Unger | Al Foote III
The play Maybe Tomorrow by Max Mondi, directed by Tomer Adorian takes a horrendous, incredible news item and turns it into a compassionate, meta-theatrical experience. As reported by Kansas news sources as well as CBS, NBC, etc., in 2008 a Ness County man called the police to advise that his girlfriend had been sitting on the toilet for about two years and was now stuck to it. The man had been assisting the woman in her planned inertia. He got six months probation for enabling this odd behavior. Years later, though not in Kansas anymore, the event inspired this beautifully unreal play.
Gail (Jennifer Bareiles) and Ben (Harrison Unger) live in a trailer—or is it a luxury travel vehicle—off the highway in Vermont. They are at a crossroads of fertility and penury, but decide to move to New York—well, Secaucus, New Jersey—for Ben’s new job and the chance to have a family. Gail, who designs arts and crafts items out of their home, eventually starts talking to the audience and questioning the reality of the four walls of the set For her, a memorable but frustrating theater experience was Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Specifically, she does not like characters who are mentioned but who never appear onstage. “What is the theater, really cheap?” she asks to the front row of the intimate Under St Marks performance space we all know and love. These valid questions/inside jokes come as she and Ben raise their young son, Benji. Although Gail enters the bathroom covered in baby vomit, she challenges Ben to prove there is a child at all.
Why is Gail able to challenge Ben to prove they have a child? Because the child is always in the other room, ever since Gail felt such peace from being in her lavatory—she calls it the “break room”—that she announced she would sit on the toilet until she is ready to do something else. She's not ready to come out today, but "maybe tomorrow". Ben sells luxury used cars for a while, but, perhaps because alcohol feels good, loses his focus and loses his job. By contrast, Gail’s online business is growing and supporting the family. Is Gail “stuck”? It is heartbreaking to watch her very nice husband realize he will not be able to go to bed with his wife for as many months and years as she wishes to sit on the toilet. Ben gives Gail everything she needs to succeed on her own. (Note the paradoxical language.) A sense of uncertainty pervades everything Ben and Gail do. They’ve finally made it! To New York! (But it’s New Jersey…) Little Benji needs a new crib, says Ben, but perhaps Ben is only expressing his life longings through the mouth of a baby they may or may not have. The play also shows how most of our lives can be carried on “virtually”. Only when Gail realizes she must go to an in-person business meeting does she wonder if she can even stand up. Do attend the show to see the ending that will question everything written herein.
As Ferris Bueller once remarked: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I wonder if anyone who agrees with Ferris thought of the consequences of a two-year bathroom break. Casting everything about relationships into doubt and having fun with it is the great joy of this production. Both performers are so perfect, and so able to make each other (and the audience) happy to inquire into what is not really known. I loved it when Gail held up a popsicle stick with two lines on it and said, “this isn’t a pregnancy test, this is a popsicle stick with two lines on it.” After watching this play, change seems much more possible. On the other hand, I’m sure if anyone uses the word “symbiotic” in my presence, I will vomit. Kudos to Tomer Adorian for creating such a complex relationship dynamic onstage, and to Max Mondi for making something so beautiful out of a news item.