Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: An Odd Fail

Ever read a play that, on paper, has vast potential and is rich with opportunity but when it's put on its feet it turns out, well, horrible? That is Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart. Written by Robert Wray, the synopsis reads about cross-word puzzle obsessed Anya takes her former lover Dugan hostage in order to get him to apologize. It has all the workings of a tragicomedy. But what gets presented is something bizarre. With a tinge of extreme absurdity, Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart may just be a piece lost in translation. Director Marty Moore seemed to have no bearings when it came to bringing this piece to life. Whether it was due to the odd structure of jumping from present to flashback with no assistance from transition or just the general clarity, it was near impossible to track just where and when and why we were. Aside from the play's structure, the piece incorporated naturally high stakes. A man was being held hostage. And yet with no restraints or care for the situation, Dugan roamed free. Sure, a giant “henchman” was standing guard offstage, the elements the terror weren’t present. There needed to be some strong force keeping Dugan contained because Anya certainly wasn’t doing it. The language Wray uses is highly poetic. There is no naturalism to the dialogue. The poetry in monologue form is stunning but the metaphor-laden exchanges are hard to handle.
With this style of writing, there needed to be specificity in the acting. As Dugan McBane, Rodney Umble seemed to grasp it. Mariah Johnson as Anya did not. With the core actors on separate pages, the chemistry was lost and it was near impossible to care about their relationship. You cared about Dugan's wellbeing in the care of his psycho ex. Umble has a quirky aura to him that was interesting to watch, though in a different play, he probably would have been stronger. Johnson seemed to be present to simply recite lines. She rarely made strong choices and played the same action when she did. But hey, this may be the way she was directed.
With an iconic Ikea couch, a staple of FringeNYC, and a side table that was used as a seat, this was the dungeon that was keeping Dugan captive. Moore had Dugan roam around the stage pretending to look at what was not present. And it was difficult to watch. The lighting by Matthew Ishee was minimal. There was no vocabulary to clue the audience into time and reality shifts, something that is integral for the storytelling of this play.
There is a story and a message in Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart. It is revealed slowly. But by the time you got there in this production, you were already lost. Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart looked like it was just thrown together last minute. And that’s unfortunate.