The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check
BIG, BAD VOICES OF SARAH JONES
have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond
with them." - Abigail Adams
"I have a dream of a new American language." - Dan Bern
Sarah Jones is
the perfect physical satirist, a walking, talking vessel of effusive
commentary, using every inch of her body, every tone of her cadence,
every syllable of her language, and every move of her appendages to
skewer our most taboo subjects. Her form, her face, her very spirit
are the tools of her compelling prose and poetry. The medium is indeed
the message for Jones, the shake of a hand, the twitch of an eye, the
subtly of her focus gracefully befitting her considerable imagination.
Yet the afterglow of her message also resonates like a piercing megaphone;
an enviable virtuosity of several crafts that turns Jones one
woman show, "Bridge & Tunnel" currently playing
at the cozy Bleecker Street Theater into a symphonic masterpiece.
The show is framed beautifully as a fictional poetry group comprised
of the most diverse cultural amalgam possible, allowing the pliable
Jones to unload a cadre of New Yorks most potent characters from
the painfully amiable Pakistani host of "I.A.M.A.P.O.E.T.T.O.O."
to its vibrantly portrayed contributors including a loquacious Vietnamese
slam-champ, an elderly yenta, a coldly pedantic Australian nihilist,
a nostalgically melancholic Mexican paraplegic, et al. Through them
Jones hits every note in the range of human emotion without a hint of
First and foremost, Sarah Jones is an exceptional wordsmith. Each character
in "Bridge & Tunnel" brims with the narrative structure
of a sharply manicured short story or a well-crafted essay. Their monologues,
initially seeming almost incoherent, begin to slowly take cogent shape,
leading us on a journey, some uncomfortable, others heart-warming, but
every one recognizably haunting. As a playwright, not just a scribbler
creating a vehicle for her immense thespian talents, Jones displays
the type of rare promise in "Bridge & Tunnel" which launches
a future prominent voice in modern American theater, one not seen in
nearly half a century. Jones has been fittingly compared to Lenny Bruce,
Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor in her ability to entertain
and provoke, educate and vilify, but after witnessing nearly two hours
of 14 characters from every angle of the American social lexicon one
denotes more than a hint of Twain or Voltaire.
But unlike many of the underground artsy projects found in the bowels
of Greenwich Village, "Bridge & Tunnel" does not pound
home metaphor and imagery with the indelicacy of a sledgehammer. Instead
Jones work, and the provocative presentation of it, sneaks and
peeks, draws you into disturbing portraits, peculiar viewpoints, and
Sometimes these themes and emotions come together simultaneously, culling
various responses from an audience unsure whether to laugh or cry.
Assuredly, during the late-spring Saturday afternoon matinee I attended,
there was plenty of cheering. However, it was hard to tell if it was
delight or the usual aplomb afforded the "new big thing".
Since its launch earlier this year, "Bridge & Tunnel"
has had quite a run and Jones is hot now, and getting hotter. The show
and her one-woman, all-encompassing contribution to it has received
rave reviews and earned a full segment on the CBS Sunday Morning show.
Thats about when I started paying attention to Jones work,
after several repeated e-mails and calls from colleagues.
At 29-years old, Jones is already a performance artist of impeccable
comedic and dramatic timing and an actor of considerable range with
a voice of social eloquence. Many far more equipped to comment on the
genre brand her a "cant-miss" talent bound for film
and celebrity. But for me, there is something deeper here than just
a rising star; for starters a strong African-American womans voice,
smart and fair in its observations. Both overtly political and wholly
human, "Bridge & Tunnel" does not speak blithely for a
cause beyond compassion and humor. It is merely an extension of its
author, brash, yet enticing, hard, yet endearing.
This is why Sarah Jones is unique in this splash world of hyperbolic
nonsense. This is why I believe she will be a significant generational
siren, a cool customer in polarized political times amidst an increasingly
mounting nation of divergent cultures.
Sitting through "Bridge & Tunnel" and its obvious messages
of tolerance and understanding beyond just race, but gender, generation,
ideology, religious and social custom, I was seduced by the distinct
idea that I was not merely watching a consummate professional spark
through sleek numbers and dead-on characterizations, which they most
certainly are, but witnessing the maturation of a deft author more than
capable of drawing true emotions with her words, not stabbing you with
calculated tear-inducing, contemplative tricks.
In other words, Sarah Jones is the real deal. "Bridge & Tunnel"
is reflective of that. Everyone should see it, if for nothing else,
but to get a rare glimpse of the power of the written word exposed to
the elements of pure expression.
© James Campion June 20th 2004
all rights reserved