Review: Half Me, Half You
Image: Tristan Bates Theatre
MEREDITH - Liane Grant
JESS - Toccarra Cash
MAYA - Kalea Williams
DEB - Laura Shipler Chico
Jess and Meredith are a married, interracial, gay couple living in New York in 2017 - the era of Trump - weathering a new wave of intolerance, discrimination and oppression, which is sweeping the nation and seeping into their home.
16 years later, Maya, a biracial British teen is forced into American life, braving the aftermath of a second civil war, and changing Meredith's life irrevocably.
Returning after its highly praised 2018 run in New York and London, in her remarkable writing debut, Liane Grant's Half Me, Half You confronts the reality of the current global climate and explores the consequences for future generations, while reminding us that we are all simply people searching for love and acceptance.
The onerous challenges involved in conceiving, giving birth to and then raising a child are ones that can stretch even the most stable of relationships.
Writer Liane Grant adds further layers of complexity to the issues involved by focusing on the parental plans of a gay, interracial, married couple who also have demanding careers.
And, if all that weren't enough, she sets the initial context for this drama in the divisive times of post-Trump America.
Half Me, Half You is divided into two parts, separated in terms of time by some 16 years, which allows for other events to surface in the story including a civil war.
It's in 2017 that we initially encounter Liane Grant's Meredith and Toccarra Cash's Jess who are trying for a child.
Since Jess is incapable of having children because of her diabetes, Meredith has opted to undertake the arduous IVF treatment which is proving unsuccessful, resulting in several miscarriages.
But soon after the play starts we discover that Meredith is not being totally frank with her wife regarding her real feelings surrounding their endeavour to produce a baby.
Liane Grant as Meredith (left) and Toccarra Cash as Jess - photo by Scott Rylander
It's in this deftly-written and thought-provoking first half that the play excels, providing a riveting examination of honesty and differences of attitudes and aspirations in what is otherwise a stable and loving relationship.
In dramatic terms, things don't turn out quite so well in the second half where we unnecessarily stray into the aftermath of a civil war that adds little to what had gone before, and edges us into a different set of issues including guilt-driven obligation.
And Liane Grant strangely felt compelled to script an awkward touch of sentimentality, especially in the closing moments, that took us into territory that had been strenuously avoided in the well-structured and affecting initial act.
Liane Grant and Toccarra Cash provide well-contrasted characters and strong performances - defining a loving couple who seem at face value to know and understand each other very well.
Yet lurking below the surface of their committed relationship are unspoken conflicting attitudes that, perhaps inevitably, are forced into the open.
Though tormented by her desperate obsession with having a child, it's Toccarra Cash's excellently described Jess who prises from Meredith an admission that she really doesn't want to have a child at all.
The first half of Half Me, Half You could almost work on its own as a one act play since it provides ample dramatic interest as well as offering important issues for analysis.
But taken as a whole, the two parts feel somewhat disconnected even if the storyline provides the appropriate links to make it believable, and Kalea Williams ably echoes the attitudes and character of her adoptive parent, Jess.
And since the first half is so powerful in terms of characterisation, performance and subject matter, the play as a whole rather loses its overall potential with the change of gear in the later section.
Even so, Half Me, Half You is certainly worth catching for the well-written and poignant first act and for a compelling performance from Toccarra Cash.
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