Earlier this evening, I watched a run-through of The Drifts, a one-man play that will take the stage at this year’s New York Fringe Festival (Aug 9 – 25). I won’t go into the details of the plot other than to say it is excerpted from the book of the same name by Thom Vernon.
As I have written elsewhere, I do not generally like one-person plays. I find them to be self-involved and often so self-referential that they provide no context for me as a viewer. The Drifts, however, does not feel like a one-person play but rather a fully cast exhibition of characters that all happen to be performed by the same actor, again Thom Vernon.
In a good way, Vernon channels his inner Sibyl to schizophrenically present a cast of at least 8 or 9 characters, including a baby cow (seriously), and he does this with such clarity that you’ll only rarely find yourself confused as to who is speaking.
With a single motion, nervous tick, posture, sound or look, Vernon assures that you will immediately know if you are looking at desperate husband Charlie or exhausted wife Julie.
The story itself comes at you like an emotional jackhammer as each of the characters struggles to find or stand up for his or her individuality. And it is this sameness of their pursuits that provides the delicious irony of the piece, proving that what truly draws us to each other is our common need to be unique.
By the end of the hour, you will find yourself as exhausted as the playwright and actor, but it will be a welcome and refreshing exhaustion that will leave you changed—and no doubt heading to the nearest bookstore to find the book.
If you are fortunate enough to be in New York during the Fringe Festival, compound that fortune by taking in The Drifts.