Girls just want to have fun. And semicolons.
Girls just want to have fun. And semicolons.
Louis Farber

Text and the City: Natalie Margolin Explains Why Commas Matter

Friendship is complicated and noisy, particularly if you’re young, and drunk, and it’s Sunday at 4 in the morning. If the actors in Space 55’s The Power of Punctuation bellow most of their lines, it’s not because the acoustics are lousy in the company’s new space near the fairgrounds. They’re yelling because inebriated, passionate young women don’t have “inside voices” when they’re discussing a cute guy they just met at the bar. That brief tryst is at the heart of Natalie Margolin’s sly, funny one-act.

Into a story that runs only a little more than an hour, Margolin neatly shoehorns all our best fears, both contemporary (What if my cellphone is broken and I don’t get my texts?) and ages-old (What if I choose a lousy mate and I’m unhappy forever?). These concerns become an absurd game played by Jenny and Fran and their roommate, Angie, a trio of 20ish Manhattan college students. The women score, on a giant dry-erase board, every text received by a guy any one of them likes. They’re looking for clues of his worthiness based on what he says, how he says it, and how quickly. Lack of punctuation and capitalization can kill a new romance before it gets started.

Margolin’s made a smart, funny commentary on 21st-century communication and the way young women talk to and rely on one another, and both the playwright (who played Angie in the original, off-Broadway production) and director Louis Farber’s cast make the most of every raucous word.

As Fran, Megan Holcomb is a skein of raw nerves, torn between honoring her sisterhood and a desire to hook up again with a fellow named Jason. Whether flailing across the stage or wedged behind an oddly handpainted sofa, Holcomb is a marvel of frantic emotion. When one potential paramour responds to Fran’s cautious inquiry with “not much just watching hulu”, and is deemed unworthy of a response (no punctuation; no capitalization; crappy TV choices), Holcomb’s facial tics and expressive eyes reveal her desire, her fear, and a ton of anguish.

Sarah Schalick plays Jenny at a single, frenzied speed, calm only long enough to insert the occasional “I love you” as a caveat before eviscerating another man. That calm returns in the story’s windup, and is as powerful as every syllable she’s hollered before. Monica Ramirez does a neat job with Angie, a clueless cheerleader rah-rahing her way through brief scenes that tip the play’s emotional scale. Credit Farber for maintaining the balance that comes before the huzzah that makes The Power of Punctuation something more than another nice little play.

The Power of Punctuation continues through July 1 at Space 55, 1524 North 18th Avenue. Visit space55.org for tickets and times.

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