In Erin Mallon’s sweet, modest play, an unlikely rooftop friendship develops between a 75-year-old man and a nine-year-old girl.
Richard Masur is terrific (as always) in portraying Bernard, who sits on the roof of his home, dividing his time between drinking and bird watching. Rory, a talkative, precocious nine-year-old (portrayed by the precocious fifth-grader Eve Johnson), suddenly appears on the roof of the house next door, determined to engage her grumpy neighbor against his will.
Rory: Hey, how come we’ve never talked before?
Bernard: Boy, I just don’t know.
Rory: Me neither. We’ve been living here almost a whole month.
Bernard: You don’t say! I barely noticed twenty-five and a half days of non-stop dog barkin’ and newborn wailing
Rory: Oh good! My mom thought we might be bothering you
Bernard’s dry sarcasm is no match for Rory’s straightforward innocence. Her naïveté provides much of the humor in the play. Many of her remarks are spot-on and hilarious, though some are too precious (and her frequent use of four-letter words feels cheap.)Rory is an especially quirky child – she gives everything an odd name; she calls her doll Netflix, her bathtub Harriet Tubman and her Dalmatian Joy Behar; she assigned Bernard a nickname – “Nard.” At the same time, she is a fount of esoteric knowledge: “Did you know that [Dalmatians are] born white and gain their spots as they mature and that they have spots in their mouths and even on their buttholes?”
Over the course of the 80 minutes of the play, with the two never talking except when they are both on their respective roofs, Rory wears down Bernard’s reserve, and we learn more about each of them – how Rory’s home life is less than ideal, though she seems unaware of this, while Bernard is fully aware of his sorrows.
At one point, Rory wants to bridge the gap between the two by jumping from her roof to his.
Rory: Leap and the net will appear. Isn’t that what people say?
Bernard: That is what jackasses say
“The Net Will Appear,” which is running at 59E59 through December 30th, originated at Mile Square Theater, a 15-year-old theater company based in Hoboken that deserves to be better known.
The Net Will Appear
By Erin Mallon
Directed by Mark Cirnigliaro
Scenic design by Matthew J. Fick, costume design by Peter Fogel, lighting design by Justin A. Partier and Jean Burkhardt, original music and sound design by Sean Hagerty
Cast: Richard Masur as Bernard and Eve Johnson as Rory
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
“The Net Will Appear” is on stage through December 30