Off-Broadway Review: “Bone on Bone” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Bone on Bone” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre (Closed Saturday, August 12, 2017)
Written by Marylou DiPietro
Directed by Misti B. Wills
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

When the audience first meets Jonathan (Mark Coffin) and Linda (Geraldine Leer) in their New York residence, they are a couple together for thirty-five years whose marriage seems to be suffering from osteoarthritis: the “stuff” between them that would allow them to smoothly glide over one another has eroded over time through the wear and tear of the normal “ups and downs” of a long-term relationship. Without the cartilage, their individual lives – their “bones” – rub uncomfortably against one another and impede movement, particularly movement forward as individuals and as a couple. When the audience last sees Linda and Jonathan, their discontent is less osteopathic and more artistic: they are more like a painting whose frame has been damaged but by no means beyond repair.

The interesting transition from bone on bone to frame on painting is the engaging storyline of Marylou DiPietro’s “Bone on Bone,” currently running at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre. After debriefing Jonathan about her lunch with colleague Ernesto (not “Ernie”) on the day before, Linda launches into the revelation that Ernesto has offered her a job at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) which would necessitate her moving to Providence. Linda assumes Jonathan will leave his successful law practice and make the move with her, working as an attorney in Provincetown, or perhaps in a hardware store. Johnathan, not unexpectedly, pushes back and the “games” begin.

The game is one of cat-and-mouse: Linda accuses Jonathan of “holding her back” and Jonathan defends the claim with the counterclaim of having supported Linda in all her artistic endeavors; Linda accuses Jonathan of “never listening and Jonathan counters with challenging Linda’s “obsession” with Ernesto over the past twenty years. This intriguing blame game eventually strips bare the underbelly of the discontents that have existed within the marriage for thirty-five years including the mundane decision about owning a dog, to the more esoteric decision not to have children.

In three distinct settings – New York to Providence to Pawtucket – the playwright discloses some of the motivations for the choices each character makes and reveals that perhaps it is less about making choices and more about “just moving forward.” This discovery occurs during the couple’s exposition of Roberts Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and is both the climax of the play and the engine that drives the plot forward to resolution.

The conflicts that drive this plot are easily identified by the members of the audience who can make essential connections between Linda and Jonathan and their own discoveries about self and other. The struggle seems less than balanced and the characters’ levels of likeability are sometimes problematic. This might be a function of Misti B. Wills’s direction rather than something specific to the script. Ms. DiPietro has created two interesting characters. Both might need some further development, particularly regarding the motivations of each character as they “move forward,” surprising one another with their intentions and their newly discovered skill sets.

Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” seems to be an integral part of the staging of “Bone on Bone.” Although the song was written to address the crisis in race relations in 1960s America, the lyrics “Take these broken wings and learn to fly/All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise” seem here to relate to Linda’s need to “find herself outside marriage.” Clearly, both Jonathan and Linda have experienced brokenness as they have navigated the vicissitudes of life and Marylou DiPietro is to be commended for addressing the struggles to find identity and meaning in a committed relationship without sacrificing the integrity of the “tie that binds.”