Urbanite Theatre continues to present new voices of the American stage with its current production, Dry Land, written by Yale grad Ruby Rae Spiegel when she was only 21.
Her characters in the play, set in a Florida high school girls’ locker room, are even younger, as are the actresses playing them. So it’s impressive the work they do in this often gripping but uneven play.
The two main characters are Amy (Ellie McCaw), a seemingly self-assured member of the swim team, and Ester (Jordan Boyer), a newcomer to whom she may be offering her friendship. Ester is lonely and has some issues (there are a lot of them for high schoolers, especially girls, to contend with, and a number of them are on display here), so she reluctantly agrees to do what Amy asks: punch her repeatedly in the stomach, in hopes of inducing a miscarriage.
That’s not giving away much, since we’re aware of Amy’s problem from the opening scene. But as Dry Land unfolds, we learn more about Amy and Ester, partly through the appearances of Reba (Olivia Siegel), possibly Amy’s best friend, and Victor (Josh James), a college boy Ester meets who sheds some light on Amy’s often self-harming behavior.
Spiegel captures the way these girls talk and interact with each other very naturally; you may feel you’re merely overhearing an unscripted conversation from time to time. While some scenes are not completely developed, tapering off into nothing, the playwright still builds to one truly powerful scene that’s painful to watch, but real. And McCaw and Boyer, both barely out of high school themselves, deliver it wonderfully under the direction of Summer Dawn Wallace.
Adults aren’t seen here, with the exception of a janitor (Richard LeVene) who makes a brief appearance to wordlessly clean up a mess. It’s the world of teenage girls we enter here, and it can be a bleak one.
But it’s encouraging to see committed young talent like this onstage. Dry Land continues through July 24; for tickets call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com.