"I just want to find out a little more about you…"
-- Daisy, Drinking and Diving
Drinking and Diving (yes, that’s "diving," not "driving") is not so much a play as it is two related one-acts by David Epstein. Related only through the character relationships (the subject matter varies), the piece is nonetheless a touching look at family and intimacy. Sometimes strangers can be closer to each other than to their own families.
In the first, two strangers strike up a conversation in a bar. Ann (Maggie Bell) is a young girl of perhaps 20; the man (Dan Patrick Brady) is an older teacher. Ann, in all the naiveté of youth, begins prying into his life. Since strangers in bars tend to be confessional, he submits, and we learn that he abandoned his wife and daughter 20 years ago and that he is a recovering alcoholic. She lost her father to a heart attack some years ago, and gradually they bond over their missed opportunities. With some pushing from her, they both admit to their pain. She pretends to be his daughter Daisy and he pretends to be her dad and they both release all the unsaid things they’ve been carrying around with them. Though a little maudlin, the goodbyes are tender.
In the second act, Ann’s brother meets with Daisy, the real daughter, in Paris. Ethan (Matt Mundy) was a bronze medallist in high diving at the Sydney Olympics, but he’s tortured by missed opportunities and resolves to kill himself by jumping off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Daisy (Elizabeth Horn) is a psychologist who tries to talk him down. She’s brash and confrontational and it seems at first that she’s not very good at her job. But she is actually good at it, and they both open up as Ethan shares his perceived failures and Daisy admits to the pain of never knowing her father.
Overall, Drinking and Diving is about people bonding in unlikely situations. The first one is slightly disappointing; Ann seems too nosy to elicit much sympathy from the audience, or confessionals from strangers, and the father seems too aloof and afraid of intimacy to open right up to a stranger, especially a young girl, especially about such a painful subject. Despite the outlandish setting and situation, the second act is actually more plausible. The conversation is more heartfelt, and the characters seem more realistic, partly because Horn elicits more sympathy (and empathy) from the audience than do the other actors.
It was a minimalist production, with the barest of elements, but Epstein directed it with warmth and feeling. His writing could use more of a dramatic through-line and a more defined sense of purpose and thematic unity, but nevertheless, this piece shows his potential as a writer.
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Copyright 2004 Jenny Sandman