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Bullet for Adolf
Woody Harrelson is famously known and highly regarded as a film (The People vs. Larry Flynt, No Country for Old), TV (Cheers) and stage (The Rainmaker) actor, as well as for his pro-hemp and pro-peace activism. He is less renowned as a playwright, although Bullet for Adolf came after another play (Furthest from the Sun) that he and Frankie Hyman co-authored in the early 1990s. Harrelson, who is white, and Hyman who is black, met while working on a construction site in Houston where they became friends and as it has turned out playwriting collaborators.
Bullet for Adolf premiered in 1999 in Minneapolis. But it wasn’t until a Toronto production last spring, under Harrelson’s direction, that Harrelson and Hyman (sounds like a vaudeville team of yore) and the producers, “Children at Play” (of which Harrelson is a co-owner) felt it was ready for New York. It isn’t.
The play is set in Houston during the summer of 1983 and opens on a construction site which, like other locations designed by Dane Laffrey are functional. While Harrelson claims he is not personified in the play, we are presumably meant to see him in Zach, a construction site foreman, as played with unrelieved, self-indulgent ennui by shaggy-haired, just barely intelligible Brandon Coffey. Hyman is, more commendably particularized by an engaging Tyler Jacob Rollinson, as Frankie, a co-worker.
After a bit of pointless prattle delivered by Dago-Czech (Lee Osorio), a soon-to-be-fired and subsequently unemployed motor-mouthed co-worker (self-described as “half Italian, half Czechoslovakian, a hundred percent nigger”), the play moves into the lodge where Jackie has been invited by pot-head Zach to live with him and his hyper-neurotic roommate Clint (David Coomber), whose sexuality appears up for grabs. Coomber works hard for his laughs, often getting them as he flits and flails about the lodge wearing only his white briefs for much of Act 1.
The host for the party is Batina’s humorless father and construction crew boss Jurgen (Nick Wyman) a pro-Nazi German who proudly rattles off a litany of Hitler’s good deeds. Other attendees include a pair .of “lookers” Jackie (Shamika Cotton) a personnel director being pursued by Frankie and her friend Shareeta (Marsh Stephanie Blake), a blistering psychologist from the fifth ward who spends her time mostly appalled by the blatant stream of crude jokes and physical assaults that she unwittingly becomes a party. The most interesting parts of the play are the film clips of incidents and VIPs that define the era and serve as bridges between scenes. It's only fair to say that the one thing than can be credited to this slap-happy farrago of memories and mayhem is the valiant performing of the incarcerated cast that knows there is no escape for two hours and twenty minutes — and though many in the audience did laugh heartily, some discreetly used the brilliantly integrated intermission to head for the exit.
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