Student-Directed Play ‘Jack and Jill’ In Bonn Offers Intimate, Compelling Look At Relationship
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:02
Jack & Jill—of no relation to the Adam Sandler flop of the same name—hit the Bonn Studio stage this past week under the direction of student Hana Hyseni, A&S ’13. The show runs about two hours long and follows seven years of an on-and-off relationship between Jack (Tom Mezger, A&S ’14) and Jill (Ceara O’Sullivan, A&S ’14).
The show is a very real take on modern romance—don’t expect the comfortable, perfect dialogue of a Hugh Grant film—conversation is often forced, questions are asked and ignored. Answers, if they come at all, may come too late. When Jack enters Jill’s apartment for the first time, she asks him to wear a condom but cautions, “no penetration.” Jill seeks the security of a wall without building one, she wants to feel an impersonal safety. And wouldn’t it be great if love came with a limited liability clause?
This is, on some level, a “him vs. her” story, and the audience seemed almost unanimously to side with Jack. Sure, there is no right or wrong in any relationship (just friction), but Jill’s temperament—executed by O’Sullivan with a neurotic ease—wears on the spirit. She is that nit-picky feminist that is offended if you hold the door open, and disenchanted when you don’t.
Both Mezger and O’Sullivan are natural in their ad-libs, their laughs are often authentic, and the two put on a very human performance—but not always genuine. Theater is a symptom of the environment—a play transcends its fictional boundaries and becomes dependent on the actors’ own characters, the physical confines of the stage, the audience, the location of the performance, etc. The scenes of bad attitudes and missed opportunities are spectacularly honest. When Jack finds another man’s name encircled in hearts, when Jill smashes dishes on the kitchen floor, the two collide in a love like sandpaper. But toward the beginning of the piece, when they have their identities consumed in affection, the dialogue falls flat. It seems more natural for us—as college students, and where we are in our lives—to express the frustrations of misappropriated love over a fairy-tale bliss.
The two hit their stride, however, as the show goes on, and the script takes a more honest turn toward the latter half. Jack admits, at one point that he feels women were made to care for men, that he hates himself because he feels like he deserves their love. He even repeats a common sentiment among the lovelorn—women prefer abuse tempered by occasional charm. For her part, Jill resists any mention of her beauty; she hates the idea of fulfillment in the eyes of another. To be loved, to be truly loved for one’s imperfections and not in spite of them, is the equivalent of losing yourself. Doesn’t everybody want those few private matters, those secrets that would ruin you if they became public? Isn’t that what defines and feeds individuality? The two are far from perfect, and by intermission, they don’t appear to be pieces of the same puzzle.
Still, after running into each other at the airport, the two reconnect. A bedroom romp and an exhausting jog later, and their chemistry sparkles. Jack has changed—and Mezger skillfully incorporates this attitude shift into his character—he cooks, he dances, he plumbs. A disco ball illuminates the stage in a date with all the appeal of a high-school prom, but O’Sullivan and Mezger don’t display an awareness of their cheesy setting, the two are so lost in each other’s foreign presence. The audience remembers that these two aren’t so old after all, and they don’t seem it on that ballroom floor.
The “dressers,” played by Jake Alexander, Loucie St. Germain, Ryan Cooper, and Sara Devizio, represent the consciousness of Jack and Jill. Hyseni cleverly positions them to work the stage at an ironic distance—they laugh, they eat peas—but they are also functional, changing setting and dress. The show flows smoothly with their help, and it is a pleasure to watch them, smiling, in action. The role of the “dressers” is most apparent in the final scene. As the two make sideways conversation in a familiar bookstore, they are continuously shushed—as if the universe is telling them to just shut up and walk past each other.
Jill claims there is no such thing as love, there is just knowing and wanting to be known. But does that philosophy make it worth the effort? Jill asks Jack to go to Prague with her on a 15-minute notice. As Jack observes, she won’t do lunch, but she’ll do Prague. We are unsatisfied with the small steps, but the demands of adult life prevent us from taking the big ones. You might forget to buy your girlfriend flowers just because, but you’ll dream about whisking her away on some romantic vacation, and the show ends on an appropriate “maybe.” n