Having seen the premiere of Lenore Skomal’s new play, Bluff, based on her best selling novel last night at the the Thespis Theater Festival, I am glad that I never got around to reading her novel. Nothing against the novel, of course, but its a wonderful thing when you can enjoy a story written for the stage that has the ability to stand alone and tell a great story. Had I read the novel I am sure I would have made comparisons. But this play stands on its own two feet and offers a fascinating tale that makes for an enjoyable night at the theatre.
The story, about a young gay woman, Jude, who ends up in a coma after falling (or jumping) from a high bluff is a mystery as much about how she fell as it is about how she got pregnant. Similar to the novel, the play centers around Jude’s ability to “see” and hear everything around her as the people in her room try to make sense of things and deal with their own drama. Not always anchored bedside to Jude and her visitors, the play jumps around in time and space to develop some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in the festival circuit this season. Credit this to the magical combination of a wonderful script, tight, well-constructed and blocked direction by Magda Skomal Nyiri and some really fine performances by this well-rounded cast.
Veteran Theatre Festival actor, Terrence Montgomery hits a home run as Jude’s best friend’s husband, Hank. Hank’s interactions with Jude and his wife (Karen Forte) are as smooth and real and emotional as anything I’ve seen at the Hudson Guild in years. Then I realized that both he and Forte have been on that stage and have impressed before. Great casting! Forte has a difficult journey from friend to wife to a woman finding her way in the world and is a pleasure to watch. You can pretty much say the same about the whole cast. Emily Cordes as Jude is fragile but strong and tragic in the role of Jude and when she smiles (not often), she lights up the stage and you really connect to her suffering. And as her nurse, Mary, Steph Van Vlack offers some of the play’s most revealing truths. Kudos to Denny Desmarais as Paul and Mindy Cassle as Gay. It’s a wonderful thing when all things fall into place and this is the case with Bluff.
Original music by Nathan Repasz, a subtle and slightly chilling ukulele score that complements much of the play and lighting by Patrick Bakalli should not go unmentioned.
You catch Bluff tonight and Saturday at the Hudson Guild Theatre and you should. For more information, Please visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2549494