2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Coping’

Sometimes real life throws you tricky situations, your emotions kick in, and you don’t respond ideally. You can’t just rewind, take a breath, and start over. Unless you are Sarah and you are trapped in the world of Jacob Marx Rice’s Coping.

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Sarah is struggling. She has OCD, her boyfriend Connor has just committed suicide, his family has decided she is to blame, and the gun that killed him is sitting center stage waiting to be addressed. But hey, nothing too major.  Luckily Sarah can stop the play at her will, go back a few lines, and try again. This she does again and again until her she is so full of repressed emotion she has no choice but to explode.

Overall the performances are solid, though some of the acting choices feel too big for the small Flashpoint Theatre space. Rebecca Ballinger gives an emotionally connected performance as Sarah. She is supported by Melissa Hmelnicky, who is harsh and controlling as Connor’s sister Jessica. Maggie Robertson is goofy and awkward as Taylor, Jessica’s girlfriend. On team comic relief Michelle Hill is hilarious as Janie, the inappropriately cheerful funeral home manager, and Danny Rovin is sweet, stoned, and lovable as Connor’s anti-pants roommate Lucas. Madelyn Farris rounds out the cast as the supportive but firm Stage Manager.

The subject matter of this play could easily be overbearing and bleak, but Rice has created an appealing balance by using humor to assuage the more uncomfortable moments. The script is well structured and moves from scene to scene with ease, though it could benefit from some tweaking in the dialogue to give the primary characters each a more specific and natural voice.

Director Joshua W. Kelley does an admirable job creating a unified vision for the show. The set, designed by Audrey Bodek, consists of varied storage containers stacked around the edges of the stage. The containers cleverly allow props and costume pieces to be stored unseen onstage. The actors exit only as far as the edge of the stage to sit on the containers and wait for their next entrance. This style, reminiscent of the recent Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, allows for a smooth and continuous flow in action. Lighting design by Kris Thompson and Daniel Mori, sound design and composition by Jordana Ardenica, and costume design by Daniel Mori and Shelby Gable fully flesh out the show.

Engaging, funny, sad, and relatable; Coping tackles difficult subject matter with a rare ease and it won’t leave you with any extra emotional baggage to cope with post show. Don’t miss it.


Coping is playing through Saturday July 23, 2016 at Flashpoint: Mead Theatre Lab – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Read the preview of ‘Coping.’

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page



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