“The Edge of Our Bodies” presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre

“The Edge of Our Bodies” presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre

Author Adam Rapp. a writer of young adult novels, is known for his insight into the adolescent mind. Here we meet Holden Caulfield’s modern-day female counterpart. Sixteen-year-old Bernadette has snuck out of her boarding school to take an Amtrak train from New Haven to Manhattan. It’s not that school is so awful, it’s just that she’s pregnant and must talk to boyfriend Michael who doesn’t know.

And so begins “The Edge of Our Bodies” where Sami Spring Detzer as Bernadette for about 90 minutes will tease, sadden, arouse, and puzzle you as she relates in the most precise detail you can imagine, incidents on her journey. It’s a journey of enlightenment as well as experience.

But this is an adolescent whose ambition is to be a short story writer. How can we tell what is true and what is imaginary in these revelations she acts out for us? What one does understand is that she’s on the cusp of womanhood, a rickety perch with the safety of childhood on one side and the uncertainty of maturity on the other.

Dressed in her school uniform of plaid skirt, white knee socks and blue blazer, her hair back in a pony tale, she’s an adolescent. When she lets down her hair . . . well that’s another story. Just as the costume works well, so too does the set placed on long planks of uneven length, another uneven edge. The few pieces of furniture give it structure, but they are almost unneeded. It’s Bernadette we mustn’t take our eyes off.

Periodically Bernadette, who likes theatre as well as literature, is bathed in red light, as she assumes the role of a sadistic maid in Jean Genet’s 1940s play “The Maids, thus revealing another aspect of her search to find herself. (Interestingly “The Maids starring Cate Blanchette, Isabelle Huppert, and Elizabeth Debicki will play in Manhattan this summer).

This is an unusually demanding role. Director David Bannon and Ms. Detzer decided to play Bernadette more subdued than I think the part demands. If, as the playwright and director suggest, women need an audience, that they must act if they are to make sense of the circumstances of their lives, more of that drama was needed here.

Through April 14 by Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., (206-325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org)

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