‘Ride’ takes audience from New Jersey to chaos

Three young women try to make sense of their complicated lives in the play, “Ride,” that was presented Nov. 15-18 in the Arena Theater. Their intense family problems kept audiences on the edge of their seats for an hour and a half. The play by Eric Lane was the drama department’s final production of the semester.          

Catherine Christenson, Alan Self and Cori Clark were ideal for the challenging teenage roles in this contemporary drama. The three drama students previously acted in other Richland productions. 

Director and drama professor Gregory Lush said one reason he chose this play was that it’s relevant in today’s society. “It’s about three young women who are going through transitions in their lives,” Lush said. He describes it as a “coming-of-age” drama.

Christenson played Molly, 17, a high school senior from a well-off family. She works because her parents expect her to work for spending money. 

Self played Carrie, 18, who is trying to raise her little sister, Samantha (Sam). Carrie works full time to save money for college. Clark plays the inquisitive, but obnoxious, 11-year-old Sam.

 The action begins in New Jersey and ends up in Miami, but first, Lane gave the audience a glimpse of the turmoil going on in the girls’ family lives. 

Molly and Carrie work at Big Bob’s fruit and vegetable stand until Molly drives up in a new car one day. It’s a gift from her father, who’s having an affair with Katie, or “Miss Smiley Face,” Molly’s pet name for her.

The affair is breaking up the family. The car is her father’s way of bribing her to keep her mouth shut. He’s abusive and she has the bruises on her neck to show for it.  

Carrie’s father died young. Her mother has transferred the responsibility of raising Sam to her older daughter. To complicate matters, her mother is bisexual.

As the play progresses, the threesome take off for Florida in Molly’s new car. Her devious plan?

To confront “Miss Smiley Face.”  Carrie steals some money from the cash box at Big Bob’s before they leave, so the girls are running from the law as the tension builds in Act 1.

The sparse set, consisting of only two movable benches (on wheels), double yellow lines on the floor for a road and some road signs, allowed the actors to move around freely on stage. The audience was seated on three sides of the action. 

 What captivated the audience was the dysfunction in both families and how Molly and Carrie planned to resolve it.  There was good rapport between Christenson and Self as they bickered about their faulty parents. Clark, who had the more difficult role as 11-year-old Sam, was a delight to watch in her attempts to add some comic relief. She kept the audience spellbound in every scene with her silly antics and gushing enthusiasm.

The girls stop at several locations on their way to Florida. When Molly finally comes face to face with “Miss Smiley Face,” Sam blurts out later, “Did you kill her?”

The play has an unexpected ending when Molly explains she did not kill Katie. Instead, she sold her car and bought plane tickets for Carrie and Sam to return home. Molly decides to stay in Florida. It’s understood that Carrie can return to Big Bob’s and get her job back. 

Lush said he hoped this play would be “thought-provoking.” “Ride” surely gave people something to talk about on the way home.