Sarah Jones is The Real Deal

Aquarian Weekly 6/23/04 REALITY CHECK


“We 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 JonesSarah 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 York’s 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 maudlin shtick.

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.

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 endearing insights. 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. That’s 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 “can’t-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 woman’s 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.

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