August 25, 2015

The tall young man in the baseball cap was upwind of me, which should have made me cautious, but my attention was a bit divided. It was Monday night and I was at a play, part of the New York International Fringe Festival. I was also standing at a railing on the Staten Island Ferry as it churned toward Manhattan, and the actor Tom Nelis was speaking into my ear. In his soothing, mesmerizing voice, he encouraged me to be present, so I took in the scene: the hazy moon, the glittering water, my fellow passenger leaning over the side of the boat to — oh, ick — let loose a gloppy wad of spit straight down into the waves. Except for a drop of saliva the breeze caught. That landed, wetly, on my lower lip. It was, for me, the unscripted low point of “Ferry Play,” a spirited, meditative audio performance conceived and directed by Erin B. Mee, with text by Jessie Bear. You bring the recording with you, on an app on your phone, listening to the first act on the way to Staten Island, the second on the return. You are instructed to regard each person on the ferry as an actor in the play. The good news: Spitting Guy probably won’t be on your boat.