Review of Split
Ira Gamerman is one of today’s up and coming young playwrights. A produced playwright since 2006, Gamerman hasn’t looked back since getting his first writing grant in 2005. After attending Towson University in Baltimore, MD, for theater performance, he moved on to earning an MFA in playwriting from Ohio University, which he will be receiving this May. His plays have been performed both nationally and internationally, and I had the privilege of seeing two of Gamerman’s short plays read at the Region II Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival two weeks ago. Both plays were chosen as one of only three compositions to move on to the national competition in Washington D.C.
Both of his plays (Skyscrapers in Sheepskin and Actual Magic) were so awesome that I felt the need to type Gamerman’s name into Google when I got home, and lo and behold, on his website were download-able plays!
Gamerman’s play Split (voted Best Play of the Year in 2008 by the Columbus Dispatch) follows the style that many of his others do, featuring a main character who narrates the events of the play as well as taking part in them, and a considerable amount of humor. Split tells the story of awkwardly charming Adam, a twenty-four year old who, at the advice of his shrink Dr. Frankfurter, is on the verge of breaking up with his girlfriend Ellen because she’s very like his mother. However, before he can, Ellen disappears to Alaska and an old flame, Jenny, walks back into his life. With the questionable help of two imaginary friends, Adam works to sort out his feelings toward the women in his life, therapy, and his own insecurities.
One of my favorite aspects of Split is the inclusion of Adam’s imaginary friends, Mr. Eskimo and Vince Vaughn. They’re fairly ridiculous and vastly entertaining, keeping Adam’s self-exploration from becoming run-of-the-mill or whiny. While Vince Vaughn is most definitely Vince Vaughn, Mr. Eskimo is not, in fact, an Eskimo. As he explains to Adam, Eskimo is not his last name, but his slave name; he doesn’t have a real name anymore. Mr. Eskimo arrives to help Adam save Ellen (who has not gone to Alaska of her own accord, but has been captured by the Elite Eskimo Underground, a “very dangerous group of rogue Eskimos” that killed Mr. Eskimo’s parents.)
Another fantastical element of the play occurs when Adam imagines an ideal past with his old crush Jenny. Presented as “The abridged history of Adam & Jenny as performed by the Adam’s fantasy players representing the maturity level of the characters at that time not necessarily their age,” we see an infantilized Adam piquing the interest of the young yet sophisticated Jenny, in a conversation that runs thus:
FANTASY JENNY: Guess what?
FANTASY ADAM: What?
FANTASY JENNY: I just broke up with my 32 year old, long-distance boyfriend who I’ve been dating for the past three years. And now I can take your virginity.
FANTASY ADAM: Wow! Really? Golly, that’d be awful nice of you, Jenny.
Amidst all this craziness, however, is unfortunate reality. Adam still lives with his mother and argues with her frequently- about his relationship with his girlfriend, about washing his hands for dinner, and especially about emptying his trash can. Before she goes to Alaska, Ellen harps on Adam about getting married, but Adam is unwilling. And when Jenny reappears in his life after three years of radio silence, Adam has to decide if he wants to let someone with so much knowledge of his past back into his life.
Split portrays both the reality and the fantasy of life, and reveals that each can be both ideal and kind of crappy. Gamerman’s humorous and truthful style lends itself to unique and enjoyable storytelling, which is probably why his plays are doing so well. If you want to check out Split or Gamerman’s other plays, you can visit his website here.
“Choosing not to choose is still a choice… Stand up strong for your confusion. Wave your flag of indecision high and proud.”
ELLEN: So, you’re saying you’re not going to marry me?
ADAM: Um- are you asking?
ADAM: Well- No.
ELLEN: You’re such an asshole.
“Common thread here? Guilt. And they come by it honestly: Mom’s Jewish. Ellen’s Catholic.”
MR. ESKIMO: Reception is terrible in the mountain range she’s in. Our only means of tracking her will be by her footprints. What brand of shoe does she wear?
ADAM: I don’t know.
MR. ESKIMO: You’ve dated her for how long? And you don’t know what brand of shoe she wears?
ADAM: She wears a lot of shoes
MR. ESKIMO: IT IS ESSENTIAL INFORMATION! IT COULD SAVE HER LIFE! SHE COULD BE DEAD, NOW!