Theater Review: Tender and powerful performances on display in Bone on Bone

By Madeline Schulman

Long Branch — “It was as if the glue was missing,” Linda (Wendy Peace) says to her husband, Johnathan (John Little), in the opening scene of Bone on Bone, a play by Marylou Dipietro having its world premiere at New Jersey Rep. The line leads Linda to mention that, as we age, the connections between our bones wear thin, and they grate on each other, bone on bone.

John Little and Wendy Peace in Bone on Bone, now playing at the New Jersey Repertory Theater. (Andrea Phox photo)

Linda and Johnathan married at 25, and have been married for 35 years (they are childless by choice) so now they are 60 – a handsome, vigorous, youthful 60, but 60 all the same, and the ligaments that held their marriage together are fraying. Many of us know of couples in long, seemingly happy unions who unexpectedly separate or divorce, and never know the reason, but we see the breaking point for these two,

Specifically, Linda and Johnathan are no longer in harmony because they want different things. Linda, an artist, has been offered a prestigious job in Providence, and wants to move to Rhode Island to live her dream life.

“Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,” she muses, and her husband replies, “Then I hope you live to a hundred and twenty.” (The play is laced with natural, unforced humor.)

Johnathan, a lawyer, loves his New York life, and doesn’t want to move. Anyone who reads the program will know that Linda makes the move, since one of the three settings listed is “Linda’s office at Rhode Island School of Design.”

If you are wondering how set designer Jessica Parks fits three separate locations on the small stage, I reply, “Genius.”

Johnathan and Linda are always out of sync. Each has a chance to feel like the lovers in “Send in the Clowns” by Sondheim, “Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air.” Every time one tries to reach out with a compromise or suggestion, offering a nice bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers, the other has to go for a run in Central Park, or has an unbreakable appointment. They want to be together, but not always at the same time.

As the play ended, an audience member nearby said, “That was powerful.” That struck me, because I didn’t experience a sense of power, but a feeling of tender hope.

But if she meant the emotional impact of the excellent writing and performances was powerful, I agree.

Bone On Bone runs through Feb. 9. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit njrep.org or call 732-229-3166.