Philip Ettinger and Tobias Segal in Edgewise
(© Carol Rosegg)
Philip Ettinger and Tobias Segal in Edgewise
(© Carol Rosegg)
There's a war going on in New Jersey. At least, that's the premise for Eliza Clark's Edgewise, now being co-produced by Page 73 and The Play Company at Walkerspace. But while director Trip Cullman and his hard-working cast labor to bring a sense of urgency to the play's oftentimes illogical action, they can't overcome the limits of the script.

Edgewise is set in an alternate reality where a prolonged military conflict is waged on American soil. Teenagers Marco (Tobias Segal), Ruckus (Philip Ettinger), and Emma (Aja Naomi King) work in a fast food joint called Dougal's, and are almost at the age that they'd be called into service.

Their normal routine is interrupted by a wounded man named Louis (Alfredo Narciso) who stumbles into the restaurant during an airstrike. Thinking he's the enemy, they tie him up and put him in the storeroom. As they try to decide what to do with him, Paul (Brandon Dirden) enters the picture, and he may or may not be in cahoots with their captive.

Clark doesn't provide many details about the war, and more information could help to bring a needed credulity to the world she is trying to create. We do learn that France is an enemy, that the conflict has lasted at least eight years, and that the draft has not only been reinstated, but that the age limit has increased so that Emma's mother is among those who have been newly drafted.

It's never really clear why one of the teens doesn't go and get backup. Sure, the phones are down, but between them, they have two cars and a bicycle. And while there may be some fear about driving the roads due to the airstrike, that doesn't seem to stop various customers from pulling into the drive-thru and ordering burgers.

Another facet of the play that strains belief is the inclusion of various confessional monologues that the teenagers (particularly Ruckus) deliver in the presence of Louis. Paul's behavior is also hard to explain, as he'd be more likely to get what he wants by taking a different approach, particularly given what we later find out about him.

Segal delivers the edgiest performance of the production, as his initially awkward and shy demeanor gives way to an impassioned rage that is unexpected yet convincing. Ettinger ably shows off his character's annoying bravado, but also displays Ruckus' deep-rooted insecurities. King's character is more flatly written, but the actress does her best to inject integrity into her characterization. Narciso conveys volumes non-verbally, particularly as Louis silently seethes as Ruckus talks on and on. Dirden does what he can with a severely underwritten part.

Set designer Andromache Chalfant has reconfigured the playing area of the theater to present the layout of the restaurant in a strikingly effective configuration. Lighting designer Nicole Pearce and sound designer Bart Fasbender also deserve praise for their contributions to how the war is visually and aurally reflected within the production. Kudos also to fight choreographer Thomas Schall, who lends the right amount of verisimilitude to the violent encounters within the play.