A Hand Across the Bridge
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
Review by Chris Castellano
Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault.
I had the opportunity to see “A Hand Across the Bridge” by Jon Galvez at the Flamboyan theater as part of the Planet Connections Theater Festivity on Monday, July 23rd. This show had to deal with very heavy themes, right from the outset. Sexual assault, binge drinking, the dangers of online dating, to name a few. The performances were solid and memorable, but the writing was problematic.
The performances turned in by the cast were stellar. I can honestly say I felt and believed every word that was being said during the first Act. There were “pairs” of characters which tended to interact, and their stories developed throughout the piece naturalistically. Each character had moments where they broke out into a short speeches giving their perspective on a moment. It was an effective way to provide a bit of grounding to the over-the-top personalities on the stage.
David (Sam Lopresti) and Carrie (Cannign Robb) were a couple that was obviously slowly petering out. It reminded me of a lot of relationships that had carried over from Highschool to college. It was a great performance by Sam Lopresti who had the delicate role of not only being in his own relationship but being involved in the relationship of Bradley (Josh Bartosch) and Karla (Alanna Dachille) as both a source of wisdom and conflict. The two were obviously struggling to deal with the differences between themselves, and it broke down slowly and organically. I never felt that the behavior was forced between any of the characters. Mark (Jordan Marimee) and Maggie (Alice Hale) were obviously the weirdos in the group of friends, and I really enjoyed their quirks playing out in a fun way. The heartbreak of not having the courage to ask someone out is something that I think anyone could identify with.
The party scenes were a bit exaggerated but not by much from what I remember of my own experiences in college. Lots of characters faded into the background, but I never felt like anyone “didn’t belong” in any particular scene. The staging and transitions were a great asset to making the show as tight as it was. The use of lights and perspective to show multiple scenes happening, or having the characters give commentary over what was happening gave a good insight into what everyone was thinking.
By the end of act one, the main conflict had been set up. A character had been sexually assaulted, and it was left completely ambiguous which character was the culprit. If the show had ended on that note, I feel it would have been a poignant reminder that anyone can be a danger, no matter how much you trust them. Act 2 is when my issues with the writing came to the fore.
Act 2 added little to the relationships we’d seen. We already could tell that David and Carrie were going to fall apart, based on their behaviors. We knew that Bradley and Karla were not going to last, due to their difference in values. We could even see that Mark and Maggie’s comets were never quite going to align. The spelling out of these developments felt tacked on.
My largest issue with this show was definitely during the reveal of who had sexually assaulted Mary. For one, revealing the character significantly detracted from the tension that had been built up. A character confronted this person and rightfully called them out for their actions. The character got a virtually-unchallenged soliloquy to justify their actions. To put an even heavier button on it, the character was even asked to his face “How do you justify yourself,” and then, the character did. It was shocking, and something I’m still coming to grips with. I’m not sure if the playwright intended to give someone who sexually assaulted another person a platform to explain themselves, but that’s what it was as an audience member. The character was ostracized after, but I was hoping that someone would come out and say “being lonely doesn’t justify anything.” It never happened.
I would not recommend this show to anyone who has trauma triggers related to sexual assault.