“Reunion Run” at the New York International Fringe Festival at Teatro Latea (Closed Saturday August 24, 2013)

Written by John Doble
Directed by Mark Olsen
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Despite being second cousins, Ronnie (Jessica Myhr) and Danny (Seth Reich) have had a romantic attraction to one another since childhood and are finally able to confess and consummate their love for one another at the annual family reunion in Philadelphia in January 2009. This is not an easy reunion: Ronnie is married to gambling-addicted Steve with children and second cousin Danny is recently divorced with children. Nonetheless, both star-crossed lovers believe they were “meant to love” each other.

Following this reunion tryst, Ronnie discloses that she has orders to ship out to Iraq, a deployment which will increase her rank and further secure her military career. A full two years later, Ronnie and Danny meet again at the family reunion and things have changed dramatically. Although Danny still expects the relationship with Ronnie to re-ignite, Ronnie has returned with PTSD and she is unable to reach out to her superiors for help. At their first reunion in 2009, Ronnie was the stronger of the two and served as Danny’s counselor and healer. Upon Ronnie’s return from Iraq, her role with Danny is reversed: she becomes the ‘client’ and Danny becomes the ‘therapist.’

Ronnie tries to make Danny understand that as an officer, she simply “cannot be afraid.” She cannot ask for counseling for her PTSD. Soldiers can readily seek and receive physical rehabilitation and re-entry into the military: commissioned officers cannot admit to needing psychological rehabilitation and re-entry.

Under Mark Olsen’s direction, Jessica Myhr and Seth Reich successfully portray Ronnie and Danny with often disturbing authenticity. These characters have been abused by broken relationships, childhood trauma, and reunion run. As their diminutive names suggest, Veronica and Daniel are not-quite adults who have tried to escape the ravages of growing up. Even their displays of affection and love are stilted and sometimes awkward: these are kids caught in separation-individuation purgatory. Ms. Myhr and Mr. Reich appropriately characterize this ennui and pervasive melancholy. There are times when Mr. Olsen’s direction might be more attentive and the pacing more appropriate to the conflicts and plot.

Ronnie needs to know that Danny “cares about her” and tells him repeatedly that how important that affirmation is to not only the future of their relationship but also to her emotional and psychological health. There is much to learn from the struggle of these convincing characters: respect goes a long way to establish and support a significant relationship. These friends and lovers are different in outlook and core beliefs and their differences provide the kind of moral ambiguity that sweetens dramatic plots. Their struggle for center and clarity is an extended metaphor for all reunion runs, individual, corporate, and political. Too often the race to enter combat recklessly is accompanied by the knowledge that death is likely to result. Yet we forge ahead exercising our humanity and our hubris. Thanks to playwright John Doble for the unsettling yet necessary reminder.