See a reunion gone awry in ‘The Bends’

Janice Rowland and Megan Slater get tipsy in “The Bends.” Credit: John Flak
Janice Rowland and Megan Slater get tipsy in “The Bends.”
Credit: John Flak

Flashpoint Theatre Company is continuing its female-centric season, titled “XX,” with “The Bends,” a play by Megan Mostyn-Brown about women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The show centers around Gemma, a best-selling author, who comes homes to reunite with old college friends. And then, says director Kathryn MacMillan, things get complicated.

Is the audience going to be surprised by twists and turns in “The Bends”?
Ohhh, yes. Ha! During this process, I had a lot of great conversations with Megan Mostyn-Brown. One of the things she said early on was that it was important that these characters have a Midwestern energy. This really spoke to me because, like Megan, I went to college in the Midwest and the people I met were, at best, incredibly warm and kind and, at worst, extraordinarily passive-aggressive. You’ll see this in the play — a building discomfort, an aggression that eventually explodes but, before that’s possible, starts to hiss out through the seams of people’s politeness. Being their best selves and showing that to the world — it’s important to these characters. But it breaks down for every single one of them in the play.

A diver can get the bends from surfacing too quickly and not taking time to adjust to the change in pressure. How does that relate to the play?
That’s an important metaphor for Gemma, in particular. When there’s a “change in pressure” in the room she becomes paralyzed, psychologically. The show is inspired, in part, by the Radiohead song of the same title. Larry Fowler, the sound designer, played with electronica elements as a nod to Radiohead and juxtaposed these against natural elements like water lapping.

What makes this show so timely?
Without giving too much away, there are secrets revealed in the play about the characters’ pasts. These are reminiscent, in a way, about the recent Steubenville verdicts. Like that case, the play raises questions about how our culture allows us to treat each other, both our bodies and our eternal sacred selves.

Do you think every woman has friends like the ones in the play?
Sadly, these characters don’t have friends, although they wouldn’t know enough to say that. They’d say that yes, they are still friends with this core group from college. But these aren’t friends I would want. They aren’t generous with one another – they’re self-centered. And hard to like. It’s one of the great surprises of the play — the way Megan has given us characters who are hard to like sometimes, but who are nonetheless easy to care about. Or feel passionately about, at least.

If you go

“The Bends”
Through March 31
Off-Broad Street Theatre
1636 Sansom St.
$15-$22
www.flashpointtheatre.org


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