Rollerblading in Gaza
nytheatre.com review by August Schulenburg
August 17, 2011
“So when you meet me: be careful.”
These words come late in Rollerblading in Gaza, the one-woman play written by Brian J. Borkowski about and for actress Maude Klochendler. Maude is cautioning potential male suitors from approaching her: after the first date, they all presumably die because she never sees them again.
This dark, self-lacerating humor is one of the better moments of Rollerblading in Gaza. The play takes its title from Maude’s un-soldierly habit of slipping away from her Israel Defense Forces outpost to rollerblade in the Palestinian territory, and this willful disregard for convention and danger carries through the rest of this presumably biographical story.
Unfortunately, in its current incarnation the play rarely lives up to the transgressive thrill of its title or the promise of its best moments. Borkowski’s gift for one-liners too often leads him away from the human details that would ground this episodic story, instead falling into more generalized sequences of set-up and punch-line. Whether Maude is confronting the vagaries of New York City’s acting or dating scenes, the unique specifics of those confrontations are missing. As a result, the play feel likes a series of loosely connected and overly familiar skits instead of distinct scenes that grow into a satisfying whole.
Director Stephen Ward exacerbates this problem by casting all of the other parts as silhouettes projected against the back wall. While well-executed, these two-dimensional shadows further reinforce the play’s flat texture and sap its potential for conflict.
There is potential here, however, and I hope the artistic team will continue to develop the play. Early in the story, Maude talks about a particular soldier she cared for the most, but neglects to go further, saying what happened between them is “classified.” Because we never get to know him, when she shares his troubling fate at the climax of the play, it feels like just another shadow on the wall.
Rollerblading in Gaza is a courageous act in life, but in this production, it is only a tantalizing metaphor. The danger of racing painfully close to the intimate details of love and loss are carefully avoided, and the moving heart of this story remains in the distance. I encourage the artistic team to return to that heart—the relationship between Maude and her beloved soldier—and go beyond punchlines to the simple details of what happened, and what didn’t. Then, when we meet Maude, we’ll want to stay for more than one night.