With Bike America the Alliance Theater has a unique, funny and thought-provoking play. The 2013 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award Winner, the play, written by Mike Lew, is a post-modern trip inside the mind of the millennial generation.
Much like a few independent films, the narrative resists the traditional plot structure and instead creates a series of connections and disconnections, which tell the story of Penny’s search for fulfillment in life. After realizing that she is trapped in her own life, she goes a bike ride across America for cancer, hoping to find her place in the world.
Played by Jessica DiGiovanni, Penny is one of those characters that’s just hard to like. 27 and still in grad school, she personifies a lost generation who are looking for direction in a senseless society. When she says, “My life is claustrophobic,” or “I am damaged,” the audience gets a sense of her wallowing in her own self doubt, but she is also selfish and arrogant. She does have her redeeming qualities, but her lack of change by the end of the story (and despite her fate) makes her an unsympathetic character.
DiGiovanni, while showing moments of strong emotion and a spot-on attitudes, doesn’t quite deliver in a role that needs the ending monologue to be a gut punch. The monologue falls flat, and with that action the character loses any chance of being anything more than annoying as she escapes her reality through various escapades.
The most interesting and well-written characters are a lesbian couple, Rorie and Annabel, played by Je Nie Fleming and Marilyn Torres. Their story is compelling, and the two actresses steal the show. They are a tour-de-force by playing two other roles, showcasing their immense talent.
What makes the show most enjoyable is the humor – irreverent humor at that. Lew’s dialogue is sharp, witty, shocking and, at times, utterly hilarious. His future as a playwright certainly looks bright with this play as a foundation.
Bike America is play that any ardent theatergoer should see. Filled with humor and smart dialogue, the show is an enjoyable night at the theater. It runs through February 24, 2013 on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theater.
For tickets and more information, please visit the Alliance Theatre’s website. The show’s runtime is 90 minutes with no intermission. Please be aware that the show includes brief nudity and strong language.
– Kenny Norton