Hats off to Argos Productions for not only shining a bright light on new plays but for staging the heck out of them. David Valdes Greenwood’s BULLY DANCE (playing through March 22nd at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre) is getting a top quality production, directed by Sarah Gazdowicz.
Chris Larson’s sound design and Sam Beebe’s original music play a pivotal role in creating the haunting, atmospheric setting for Valdes Greenwood’s expressionistic play. Central to BULLY DANCE is a lonely, internet fueled teenaged gunman who embarks on a “mission” of revenge—but the play is truly about the reverberations of his actions.
Why, you might ask, do we need another play about teenagers bent on violence when it’s on the television and news every day? Valdes Greenwood’s play has a unique perspective: He asks us not to judge a book by its cover, or even by one chapter. He asks his characters to heal. He writes from experience.
His play is anchored by a narrator (Juliet Bowler) who brings all the characters together (for our benefit and maybe for theirs) with a nifty dramatic device. Valdes Greenwood invents a form which isn’t exactly magical realism and isn’t exactly naturalistic, either, although it feels all too real. The women in the story who have lost a loved one wail and keen in voices which blend symphonically. As they grieve in harmonic screams, you begin to think this must be the universal, undulating sound of suffering.
Impassioned performances inform director Gazdowicz’ production: Charlotte Kinder as the younger widow gives full vent to her anger. Lida McGirr as the older, wiser widow lets us see the depths of her distress. Veronica Anastasio Wiseman as the killer’s mother suffers the pain of Greek tragedy, her body seeming to slump under her torturous burden. Bowler, as narrator, is a modern earth mother.
You don’t get to know the killer in most plays about serial murder but Valdes Greenwood gives us the chance. Christopher Nourse as the disturbed teenager is able to make us laugh, believe it or not and Valdes Greenwood gives the character the ability to look back on the destruction he’s caused and reflect. All the other males (police, victims etc.) are played by Adam Lauver, who morphs easily into each role.
The more violence in the world, it seems the more plays about it. This past year I’ve seen three others about teenage mass murderers. Too many for me.