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The Space Between My Head and My Body (Review)

By Rick Pender · May 31st, 2013 · Fringe
Playwright Catie O’Keefe has been a factor on the Cincinnati Theatre scene for several years, working with New Edgecliff Theatre and now her own group, Shark Eat Muffin Theatre Company. Her play Darker was presented during the 2011 Fringe; she’s back for the 2013 Fringe with The Space Between My Head and My Body, a non-linear piece about people whose lives intersect on an airplane flight. It’s presented in the third-floor studio space at Elementz (1100 Race St.).

The script is a series of vignettes (the show is 60 minutes in length) that focus on an engaged couple (Mindy Heithaus and Dan Maloney), on Lois (Katey Blood ), age 16 and pregnant with twins and subsequently with her offspring as teens and young adults (Rhys Boatwright and Lauren Showen). Several of the actors, male and female, also portray a mechanically vapid flight attendant. 

The characters follow “airplane etiquette,” we learn: “You can always converse with someone on a plane.” But their interactions are awash in anxiety. The engaged couple’s seats are separated. Lois is flying to see the boy who’s the father of the children she’s carrying; she has an odd conversation with the engaged man.

The twins — subsequently young adults — have an uncomfortable relationship because the boy is drawn to wearing women’s clothes. The scenes are non-sequential, and their progress accumulates meaning as we piece together how these characters and their conversations relate to one another. Ultimately they all feel like lost travelers.

It also becomes apparent that they exist in some removed and distant space — an airplane cabin beyond life, perhaps? Each character dons a blank white mask that suggests a departure, a draining of emotion, perhaps even a tragedy. Little is specifically indicated, but each character seems adrift, trying to connect but failing. 

I wish that director Laura Boggs had paced the piece with a little more variety and more briskness between scenes. A monotony resulted from the repeated sequence of a scene, a blackout, actors moving off, others moving on. Nevertheless, Heithaus is especially vulnerable as a sweet Southern gal (in a white dress printed with red cherries, bright red shoes and a red flower — in her red hair); Maloney is her caring, solicitous fiancé, and when we see him alone and lost, his fear is palpable. Katey Blood plays Lois as a nervous pregnant teen and subsequently as the pragmatic mother of the sparring twins (Mark and Megan).

O’Keefe’s script is poetic, thoughtful and evocative. The cleverly designed program (resembling the safety information brochure found in the seatback pocket when you travel by air) suggests “somewhere between departure and arrival, you can be anyone.” Or, perhaps, no one.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 9 p.m. June 1, 7 p.m. June 3, 9 p.m. June 6 and &:30 p.m. June 8 at ELEMENTZ. Find more of CityBeat's ongoing 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival coverage, including performance reviews, commentary and venue details, here.



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