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Originally published Friday, April 4, 2014 at 6:05 AM

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‘Edge of our Bodies’: a teen lost in reality, memory

A review of “The Edge of Our Bodies,” now being staged by Washington Ensemble Theatre through April 14, 2014.


Seattle Times theater critic

THEATER REVIEW

‘The Edge of Our Bodies’

Through Monday, April 14, at Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave., Seattle; $15-$20 (206-325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org).

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The parallels between Holden Caulfield, the teenage narrator of J.D. Salinger’s novel “Catcher in the Rye,” and Bernadette, the voluble diarist in Adam Rapp’s recent play “The Edge of Our Bodies,” are unmistakable.

Both are precocious, literary-minded adolescents who look at the adult world with a jaundiced eye. Both ditch their tony boarding schools for a solo trip to New York City. Both are misfits navigating that scary bridge between adolescence and young adulthood. And neither one is having all that much fun.

True, Holden emerged in 1951, while Bernadette (played by Samie Spring Detzer, at Washington Ensemble Theatre) is very Generation Y — as in, she wrote an English paper comparing “The Bell Jar” to “Geek Love.”

But as she shares entries from her journal, Rapp’s creation seems just as steeped in youthful existential alienation as her postwar predecessor. Only he wasn’t a “little lost girl from the Eastern Seaboard” with an unwanted pregnancy, an unresponsive boyfriend and a willingness to engage in a sad, sordid little sexual encounter that only makes her feel worse.

What empowers and, perhaps, saves Bernadette from clinical malaise is her talent with words (she finds countless similes to describe unattractive adult faces, as in “he has a face like a fat, sick baby”), and her flair for drama — which we glimpse in brief excerpts from her school production of Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” a play in which two young women rise up against their oppressor-employer.

The clever language and twinges of poignancy in “The Edge of Our Bodies” are delivered with clarity by Detzer, in Devin Bannon’s exacting staging, but there’s a flatness in the performance that adds to the general gloom of this hour-plus, nearly solo one act.

Among other things in this play, to quote Holden Caulfield, “you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com



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