Off-Broadway Review: THE BANDAGED PLACE (Roundabout Theatre Company)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on November 28, 2022

in Theater-New York

DOES TIME HEAL ALL WOUNDS?

It is not news to write that violence permeates all corners of modern society. Psychological, emotional, sexual and physical violence are rampant. And while violence anywhere is horrific, it can be even more so within a domestic living situation. To be the victim of such abuse or witness a loved one being abused is hugely traumatic. While media portrayals focus mainly on female, heterosexual victims, what about same-sex relationships? the bandaged place by Harrison David Rivers dramatizes this question by presenting a riveting story of domestic abuse within a gay, male relationship. Produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company and expertly directed by David Mendizabal, this searing, multi-layered, multi-disciplinary production is a deeply affecting and thought-provoking work. The show takes the audience to hell but ends on a well-earned, hopeful note. Bottom line: This excellent performance can be difficult to watch but is not to be missed.

Jhardon DiShon Milton, Jake Ryan Lozano

Twenty-something Jonah Irby is an African American, professional dancer with a damaged knee, living in New York. He also has a recently filed restraining order against his Latino ex-boyfriend, Ruben Torres. As the show begins, a surprise phone call from Ruben to Jonah, which Jonah accepts against his better judgment, provides the opening for Ruben to slowly worm his way back into Jonah’s life. Jonah is also a single dad to his own ten-year-old daughter Ella. Ella lives with and has been adopted by Jonah’s maternal grandmother, Geraldine. This is the same woman who adopted and raised Jonah when her daughter (Jonah’s mother) became incapable of raising him. Young Ella is also a dancer, studying hip-hop dance at Alvin Ailey with her favorite teacher, Sam Yates. Sam, also Latino, is kind of an anti-Ruben – gentle, kind, caring, secure, accomplished. Sam becomes a welcome friend for Jonah as Jonah is not only recovering from an injured knee but also deals with depression and low self-esteem. So between his abusive experience now and the family drama he grew up with, Jonah sometimes has difficulty simply functioning in an adult capacity. Jonah knows he shouldn’t be with Ruben but is still tremendously attracted. His struggle with this dysfunctional appeal how he deals with it and the consequences therein is the grist for much of the play.

Stephanie Berry, Phoenix Noelle

This may sound like a borrowed plot line from any number of Lifetime Original Movies and, in some ways, it is. However, what raises this script miles above those screenplays is the excellence of Rivers writing. Rivers is a sensitive and talented playwright with a deep understanding of the workings of the human heart, especially when that heart is in conflict with the intellect. Rivers writes fully rounded people and the conflicts of the show come from these characters’ choices, not plot contrivance. While some of his scenes could probably be trimmed, they are still fascinating due to their authentic portrayal of how people are. And it is this accuracy that makes the show even more impactful. After all, who hasn’t made decisions against their own best interests, especially where love and intimacy are concerned?

The acting is stunning across the board. As Jonah, Jhardon Dishon Milton shows tremendous vulnerability – allowing himself to be both victim and victimized – while maintaining some semblance of the man he was before. Mr. Milton’s courageous work in portraying someone on a path of such obvious self-destruction does a great service to the community. Though we surely judge Jonah at times, Milton’s display of humanity demands that we mostly have compassion for this troubled young man. As Ruben, Anthony Lee Medina is all sexy, handsome swagger and it’s easy to understand Jonah’s continued longing. However, Medina also shows the manipulation, sensitivity and rage Ruben has underneath, bravely exposing this character’s deep-seated fear, insecurity and shame. It does not excuse his behavior but Medina’s layered performance poses the question – what abuse did Ruben suffer that resulted in him being such an abuser today?

Jake Ryan Lozano, Sasha Manuel

Jake Ryan Lozano as Sam is pretty adorable. The boyfriend material that everyone searches for, Lozano shines in all his scenes, in particular in relating to Jonah a traumatic secret from his own youth. Young Sasha Manuel is very impressive as ten-year-old Ella. This relative newcomer holds her own with the text and her fellow actors in her very large role. And she has a seemingly endless supply of energy. As Geraldine, the heart of the show and the character the audience can most hang on to, Stephanie Berry offers nuanced, funny, moving, deeply felt work. A fine actress, her stage presence is such that it’s sometimes hard to take your eyes off of her. Her Geraldine is constantly trying to help, fix and manage the lives of those around her and Berry’s fully lived performance bring this character to wonderful, recognizable, gut-wrenching life.

Jhardon DiShon Milton

There are also significant dance sequences choreographed by Tislarm Bouie, in particular a breath-taking duet performed by Medina and Milton. Though sometimes a bit long, these pieces work well within the overall production concept. Dance is cleverly used throughout on Wilson Chin’s mirrored and minimal set. Director Mendizabal keeps the production moving briskly, as there is little in the way of set or props to curtail Mendizable’s imaginative staging. Intimacy direction by Rocio Mendez is outstanding. The script asks the performers to go to some very difficult physical and emotional places yet the actors confidently went wherever they needed. Particularly in such a small space as the Black Box Theater at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre with the audience just a few feet away, the ease and openness with which these actors performed must be attributed to the safety and trust they established through their work with Mendez.

A challenging and creative production that looks at both the legacy of abuse and the path to true healing, a bandaged place shows humanity at it’s worst and it’s best. Bring the Kleenex because you’ll need them. But have no fear, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Jhardon Dishon Milton, Anthony Lee Medina

photos by Joan Marcus

the bandaged place
Roundabout Theatre Company’s Roundabout Underground
Black Box Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
ends on December 18, 2022
for tickets, visit Roundabout

{ 4 comments }

Jeff Solis December 2, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Excellent review. Once again you have convinced me to buy a ticket to see this play to which I am taking a friend. Thank you.

Kevin Vavasseur December 4, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Thx Jeff!

Tony Frankel December 6, 2022 at 11:07 am

One of the best plays in NYC right now. I couldn’t agree more with this review. Although I thought the dances were the right length. We left inspired and enthralled. Thanks for recommending this, Kevin.

Kevin Vavasseur December 7, 2022 at 7:44 am

Glad you liked it!

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