POP: J on Nerve

What is POP (aka) Playwrights-On-Playwrights?
Who else is POPing Adam Szymkowicz?

Number 5 is alive: J Holtham on Adam Szymkowicz’s Nerve

J’s plays include January 2nd, Creative Writing, Lovers to Bed, 11th Hour, Race Music, Household Name, Splendid, and Daylight Savings (What Happens Now).

Nerve has been produced in NYC, St Louis, Miami, Asheville, Philadelphia, and beyond. For more information about Nerve, check out Adam’s website. Nerve is published by Dramatists Play Service, and is available here and here.

The Ranks of the Freaks: A Response to Adam Szymkowicz’s Nerve

C’mon and save me
Why don’t you save me
If you could save me
From the ranks of the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone

Except the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone
Except the freaks who could never love anyone

-“Save Me”, Aimee Mann, 1999

Nerve made me instantly uncomfortable. I’ve done my time in the world of internet dating and there was definitely the shock of recognition in the play. Not in Susan, the damaged, knife-wielding, interpretive-dancing date, but in Elliot, the equally damaged, puppet-making, codependent, insanely jealous fella in the play. Yeah, I’ve been that guy. I probably still am. So it’s hard to be in his company for too long. It hits too close to home.

Desperation and neediness make for a pretty toxic cocktail. More than the names of previous (and, let’s be honest, just as successful) dates are carved into the tabletop, pain is etched in every word of the play. Adam doesn’t spell out the details and he doesn’t really need to. We know these people and how they wound up at this bar, after a Michael Moore movie. We’ve been there. Maybe we haven’t been quite as needy as these two…but only by a hair.

Does that gap, that distance between the open wounds that these characters carry and the deeper, more camouflaged ones we all have, make for a play? Because there isn’t much else to Nerve. Two people, a scarred table, a puppet, a knife, that’s really it. They meet awkward, bond, repulse, bond some more, dance their pain, hurt each other…and not much else, in the way of plot or action. We get glimpses of their larger worlds, of the people who hurt them, or who they feel responsible for, but we spend our time with Susan and Elliot. It’s a quick 46 pages.

Or a long one. Depending on how much you can stand.

Leave a comment