Once you’re walking along a bridge, you really only have a few options. Keep walking forward to get to the other side. Turn around and return the way you came. Stay on the bridge forever. Or jump.
Much of the action and dialogue of playwright Charly Evon Simpson’s poignant Jump at Everyman Theatre takes place on a scenic bridge overlooking deep waters. Beautifully directed by Summer L. Williams and with compelling performances from the entire cast, this drama about family, forgiveness, and healing will stay with you for a long time.
It is on this bridge that Fay (Billie Krishawn in her Everyman debut), a punctual, moody, and unmoored twenty-something, finds herself, over and over again, leaning against the railing, smoking from a neon-green vape pen, staring into nothing. As she tries to discard her vape pen into the waters below, it returns to her hand several times in a smoky deus ex machina moment, indicating that the setting is “a world of past, present, and some fantasy mixed in” (Jump program). Krishawn gives a commanding performance as a haunted young woman, so stricken by the death of a loved one that she cannot move in any direction. Despite the depth of her grief, Krishawn draws a fully realized character: Fay is funny, at times caring or selfish, and unsure of her future.
This bridge, as concrete and tourist-loved as it may be, is also a figurative site of memories and trauma for Fay — a place that she deeply associates with her mother, who died a year before. Fay’s mother selected the family home because it had a view of this bridge, and Fay repeatedly returns to a memory of first traversing the bridge with her mother and her older sister Judy when they were just girls. The pleasant memory allows Fay to block a more painful truth about this same locale.
As Fay returns to her family home to help her Dad (Everyman resident company member Jefferson A. Russell) and Judy (Morgan Danielle Day, also in her Everyman debut) prepare the house for sale, we witness the family’s grieving process. Grief, the play states, is not a linear movement through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance, but more complicated and subtle feelings and actions. The sisters return to old rivalries and disputes while Dad turns to heavy drinking. Dad’s quiet despair eventually explodes into a shattering monologue about his deep grief for his wife and how he expected his daughter to turn out. Russell, always a commanding stage presence, gives a quiet and understated performance of grief and guilt.
This is no longer the home of Fay’s childhood filled with happy memories. This is a haunted house.
Eerie effects heighten moments of great family tension or unpleasant memories; the lights flicker (Harold F. Burgess II, lighting designer) and are accompanied by an electric buzzing (Pornchanok Kanchanabanca, sound design and music). Judy — always the perfect eldest daughter and now a successful career woman with a long-term boyfriend and fancy clothes— regresses into childish behaviors, playfully flopping onto her childhood bed a dozen or more times in a scene moving from silly to unsettling. Day plays the prissy elder-sister type to perfection but adds nuances: Judy is heartbreaking, frustrating, and (in the surreal montages) uncanny.
It’s no wonder that Fay keeps escaping out of her family’s broken home to the bridge. As designed by Daniel Ettinger, the cozy-looking family home (complete with a comfy recliner and matching twin beds for the sisters) is bisected by the bridge hovering above, with an abstract and skeletal outline of the house in the background.
It’s also on this scenic bridge that she meets Hopkins (Everyman resident company member Tony Nam), a depressed anthropology student in an energetic meet-cute: they find themselves in an impromptu karaoke and dance battle to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Nam and Krishawn have incredible natural chemistry together — striking a balance between strangers, acquaintances yoked by tragic circumstances, and potential friends/romantic partners. Over the course of several meetings along this bridge, they flirt, argue, and divulge personal secrets, leading to growth and reconciliation.
Without divulging any big plot twists, the nonlinear play builds to a stunning realization with each cast member so fully embodying their roles that we, like Fay, have to piece together the puzzle and see if we can find the completed scene.
The play deals with difficult situations, including suicide, but with a clear directorial vision, a pitch-perfect and compatible cast, and effective set, sound, and lighting designs, it is a deeply touching story about loss and recovery. As directed by Williams, the play’s slippages into memories or fantasies are always undergirded by realism. There are long stretches of silence, building moments of boredom, anxiety, or tension, and a thousand awkward little gestures between characters that develop the realities of their relationships. And despite the heavy subject matter, it is also funny and sweet at moments, even hopeful and healing in its final exchange.
Director Summer L. Williams notes that bell hooks’ essay collection All About Love: New Visions inspired the vision for the play. hooks describes how grief left her, like Fay, stuck on a bridge: “For years I lived my life suspended, trapped by the past, unable to move into the future.”
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Jump plays through February 19, 2023, at Everyman Theatre – 315 W. Fayette St., Baltimore, MD. Tickets start at $29, with Eight in A, Pay-What-You-Choose, Theatre Nights for Teens, Midweek Matinees, Childcare Matinees, and Cast Conversation performances with special pricing and perks options. Standard box office hours are Monday through Friday from 10 am until 4 pm, and Saturdays from 12 pm until 4 pm. For tickets and more information visit everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208.
The digital program for Jump is available here.
Content Transparency: This play contains subject matter including depression, grief, loss, suicidal ideation, domestic violence, and resilience. We encourage all patrons to use their own discretion in determining the appropriateness of the material. click here for detailed content by scene (contains spoilers).
COVID Safety: Masks are encouraged but not required; visit here for more safety information.