The most interesting thing about this minor, but often entertaining piece, is that the salad of broadly drawn, misfit characters tossed throughout actually existed. Written by first time playwrights, actor Woody Harrelson and Frankie Hyman, the loosely knit narrative begins with the forging of their unlikely friendship 29 years ago while working construction in Houston, Texas. Harrelson was a good ol’ southern white rube (and aspiring actor), Hyman a drifting New York City, Harlem-bred, black man with a past. Both were there on a pit stop. In the play, Harrelson is represented by Zach (Brandon Coffey), a completely unappetizing slacker “Is a pig’s ass pork?!”/”Don’t go hardline when there’s pussy at stake,” while street smart Frankie (Tyler Jacob Rollinson), is depicted with his own name.
Lacking in plot but for a motiveless crime in the second act, the play consists of successive scenes in which class, racial, sexual, and ethnic differences clash amid some great one-liners and endlessly creative, equal-opportunity-offending expletives. Hitler’s “good points,” pedophilia, and a tradition concerning recycled placenta pop up just to make sure no audience member leaves without cringing.
The able cast includes two stand-outs: Tyler Jacob Rollinson (Frankie) is easy in his character’s skin from the get-go; realistic, grounded, and restrained even when smut goes flying. He registers thought with nuanced facial expressions before making a move. The actor seems to know his way around bricks, pulleys and tar. David Coomber (Clint) has excellent comic timing evident even in emphatically broad strokes. His physical acting skills add to characterization.
In an interview with The New York Times, Woody Harrelson says he and fellow writer, Frankie Hyman thought “Do we really need a plot?” ‘Apparently not in order to get a production. The first act is simply interplay and could successfully be shortened, but the second has momentum. Exchanges are sometimes clever and a break-out group fight which segues from fisticuffs into joyful dance is terrific. (Kudos to Rick Sordelet, Fight Director, who also manages splendid periodic slaps and slugs.) One dimensional participants never hurt comic books.
Director Woody Harrelson utilizes the stage well. Volatility is employed as punctuation. The free-for-all fight scene, Frankie’s near seduction of Jackie and later, three friends climbing in through Jurgen’s window, offer gem-like interaction. Gestures feel character specific. Timing is good. Taking it all down just a notch might help the piece feel less like a sketch.
Scene changes are accompanied by loud music and multi-screen images of familiar films, television, advertising and politics from the early 80s (by Imaginary Media). It’s equally likely this is intended to prevent reflection on the play as it is to distract while furniture is being reset.
Dane Laffrey’s Set Design is effective and multi-functional, if a bit spare. Kristy Leigh Hall’s Costumes are perfectly apt, especially the imaginatively defined ones for Clint. Jen Schreiver’s Lighting Design serves the play well in light or assumed dark.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg
Opening:(L-R) Shamika Cotton, Tyler Jacob Rollinson, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Shannon Garland, Lee Osorio, Brandon Coffey, and David Coomber
#1 (L-R) Tyler Jacob Rollinson and Lee Osorio
#2 (L-R) Brandon Coffey and Marsha Stephanie Blake
#3 (L-R) David Coomber and Nick Wyman
Children at Play presents
Bullet for Adolf by Woody Harrelson & Frankie Hyman
Directed by Woody Harrelson
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
Through September 9, 2012