The Truing, now premiering at the NYC Fringe festival, is one of those plays which the Fringe is justifiably renowned for finding. It is a well written and well-constructed play, beautifully acted. This is the type of show the Fringe can introduce slowly and build an audience for. And The Truing deserves to be seen. The audience I watched it with was swept up in the show, which is a thoughtful comedy.
The Truing takes place during an AIDS bicycle fund raising ride, although the experience is universal throughout participatory fundraising events. It could have just as easily been set during a 10K Run for Cancer or the # Day Walk for Breast Cancer. It tells the interwoven tale of six people who are part of the ride, but were somehow stranded at the first campsite as event has moved on.
Stephen Hope plays Gil, who crews because he is not healthy enough to ride on this trip. Gil opens the piece in a monolog addressing the audience. Only later do you realize the monolog is sort of a nervous twitch while he waits for his crew partner, Skip to return. Kathryn Gerhardt plays the Gil’s best friend and roommate Skip. She is Gil’s confidant and partner in every way, except sexually. Skip struggles with Gil’s recent health problems more than he does. Ms. Gerhardt and Mr. Hope hit every mark in the the chemistry of longtime friends, a friendship that has morphed into family.
The Cast: Kathryn Gerhardt, Joel Mark Mijares, Stephen Hope, Billy Hipkins (back), Andrew Dawson & Esther Chen
Joel Mark Mijares and Esther Chen play Doc and Marion. Doc is a member of the traveling bicycle repair crew, and Marion is a very embarrassed rider who wakes up in Doc’s tent. Their tentative outreach towards one another is hampered by the awkwardness of the “morning after” a night of drunken revelry. It doesn’t help that they are stranded together waiting for transportation and Marion doesn’t quite remember everything from the night before. Ms. Chen is quite good portraying the many emotions that come with a walk of shame, where you never arrive home. And Mr. Mijares projects a laconic ease and sensuality that makes Ms. Chen’s reactions organic and understandable. His ease with her is offset by an irritation with being left behind.
The last two members of the cast are Howard and Chickie, both of whose stories play out over time, in bits and pieces. Andrew Dawson plays Howard, a long time fundraising rider who seems a bit too insistent on getting his bicycle out of bike repair. Chickie, loosely based on a collection of actual characters, is brought to life by Billy Hipkins. Chickie takes part in the ride every year, in a chicken suit. Famous on the ride for this bit of theater, Chickie plays up the eccentricity. Howard and Chickie are introduced as caricatures - the enthusiastic participants that are too invested in the event. Their unique stories are shared slowly, with a deft touch by director Douglas Hall and writer Joe Norton.
The Truing follows these six one afternoon, as they are pressed out of their comfort zones. They will have to work together to resolve a couple of problems. In that sense, The Truing shows people struggling to find the inclusiveness of the ride before it became a marketing vehicle. As these events – the AIDS ride, the Walk for Breast Cancer, the 10K for Heart Health or Aerobics for Multiple Sclerosis - become bigger, they lose a sense of community they once had. This play explores the reason people take part in these events and the friendships that can grow unexpectedly. The reasons can often get lost in the quest for donations and the antics of the crowd. The desire to be part of something and the need for human understanding, drive the emotion delivered in The Truing.
Kathryn Gerhardt & Stephen Hope share a laugh
That said, this is the Fringe and there are pieces of the show that could be improved with time and more work. Marion is a little more frantic than she needs to be, and Chickie is a bit too fluffy. But these are minor points, the show will leave you laughing and feeling better about life.
The Truing continues Thursday Aug 14th, Thursday Aug 21st and Saturday Aug 23rd. See TheTruingPlay.com for more information.
Playwright: Joe Norton
Director: Douglas Hall
Cast: Stephen Hope, Kathryn Gerhardt, Joel Mark Mijares, Andrew Dawson, Esther Chen, Billy Hipkins