Neena Beber has written a remarkably absorbing, complex and intelligent play about the relationship of a trio of young urbanites seeking fulfillment. It's being given a first-rate sendoff in this sensitive co-production by D.C.'s Theater J and Woolly Mammoth Theater Co.

Neena Beber has written a remarkably absorbing, complex and intelligent play about the relationship of a trio of young urbanites seeking fulfillment. It’s being given a first-rate sendoff in this sensitive co-production by D.C.’s Theater J and Woolly Mammoth Theater Co.

Beber, whose “Tomorrowland” was tackled by Theater J in 1999, received the L. Arnold Weissberger Award at the Williamstown Theater Festival for “Jump/Cut.” It has changed considerably since then, thanks to a partnership between Woolly and A.S.K. Theater Projects, which funded workshops that spurred revisions by the author right up to opening night.

Superbly acted and inventively told, the play unfolds as a disjointed flashback narrated by Paul (Eric Sutton), an aspiring filmmaker who spins his yarn in unedited fashion with abrupt cuts in action, mimicking his craft (hence the title). A fixture on Paul’s couch is lifelong chum Dave (Michael Chernus), an extremely bright but deeply troubled individual who is dependent on medication to control his bipolar syndrome. Paul is infatuated with the self-absorbed Karen (Colleen DeLany), whom he has turned from acerbic critic to live-in girlfriend.

The script reveals the nuances in the relationships among the characters via humorous and insightful dialogue. Quintessential Gen-Xers, they revel in media culture as they pursue their personal and professional ambitions. Close bonds develop all around, especially as attention begins to revolve around the exasperating but likable Dave and the demons that confront him.

Paul decides to produce a documentary on his friend, a move he figures might accelerate his own career while spotlighting the horrors of manic depression. But the exercise backfires as the omnipresent camera begins to influence fragile relationships and alliances.

Chernus is magnificent as the disheveled and inert freeloader who wins you over with his endearing vulnerability. Beneath his carefree exterior is an angst-ridden young man who has already failed at one suicide attempt and who detests the mood-leveling medications that render him fit for society but untrue to himself.

The other perfs are also solid, Sutton as the timid but energetic filmmaker and DeLany as an ambitious but equally insecure student. Their uncertainties about their own relationship add yet another inviting layer of introspection to this intriguing tale.

Director Leigh Silverman has wisely underscored the play’s merits by simply letting the action flow.

Jump/Cut

Goldman Theater, Washington; 214 Seats; $34 Top

Production

A Theater J and Woolly Mammoth Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts by Neena Beber. Staged by Leigh Silverman.

Creative

Sets, Erhard Rom; costumes, Michele Reisch; lighting, Dan Conway; sound, Jill B.C. DuBoff. Opened March 2, 2003. Reviewed March 13. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast

Paul - Eric Sutton Dave - Michael Chernus Karen - Colleen DeLany
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