by Morgan Lindsey Tachco · August 23, 2015
Thomas Wood, Rachael Balcanoff | Jody Christopherson
Most New York City residents will, at some time or another, experience a time (and time again) where the city breaks your heart. It's different than a relational heartbreak; just as, if not more than intense. Maybe your tip jar gets stolen, you lose a job interview sitting on a broken down train, or you turned a corner the moment someone chose to jump. Living here, you will see the true colors of human inequity. This, especially for the young, liberal and privileged, can be too much to grapple with. It’s through these heartbreaks we develop a relationship with this place - whether or not we decide to stay. For too many of us these wounds leave glittery scars we gaze back on when prompted with the question “Why? Why would you stay there?” to quote Lisa, a wonderful character in Amelia Parenteau’s Liminal now playing at FringeNYC: “They stay because it’s home.”
It’s Callinda, Liminal’s youthful protagonist (played here by Rachael Balcanoff) who prompts the question, probably expecting a complex answer that will tell her how to find “home.” Callinda is a twenty one year old poet in grad school, newly single after an undergrad breakup, bursting with all of the youthful exuberance of a white liberal art school graduate. If some aspects of her journey are cringe-worthy, it's because they hit home. How many of us didn't run around the city reciting poetry at the skyline, searching for our inner Dorothy Parker through the eyes of the nearest beautiful narcissist and a good drink special? Good sweet grief.
And, how many times have we seen this story recently? The Young, Quirky, Smart, Independent Woman Finding Herself has (gratefully in many respects) become a staple. What’s unique about Prenteau’s Liminal is it serves as sort of the anti-Girls: it includes a conscience.
Jackie (Shashone Lambert), Lisa (Vanessa Pereda-Felix), and Deirdre (Samantha Jane Williams) portray a postal worker, deli worker, and bus driver respectively, and are woven into the piece to serve as the three muses for Callinda's existential crisis. They serve as a breath of fresh, grounded air to the bubbly young Callinda and her beau Jack (Thomas Wood). Their characters and performances are a true delight and a highlight of the play. (As an audience member, I found myself cheering a bit at their entrances.) Not only is their chemistry and timing brilliant, but they are also well conceived characters that serve as a showcase for fantastic actors. They’re given a chance to unapologetically and enthusiastically own their stories, and aren’t simply asked to serve as “magical minorities” to keep the white girl in check. They help Callinda see the breadth of her need to unpack herself. And they’re hilarious in the process.
Parenteau’s script could use some shaving - at nearly 2 hours with no intermission it runs long. Director Daniella Caggiano keepsit moving at pace, however, and with delightful performances, Liminal is a welcome highlight to the FringeNYC lineup.