All I know how to do anymore is make pasta and yell: The Foundry Theatre’s therapeutic agitprop by Allen Johnson Nov 4, 2006
Major Bang or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dirty Bomb is wonderful – i.e., it elicits and arouses wonder. It's marvelous, and whip-smart, and messy and very tight.
I get all excited about good theater. It’s embarrassing. I am so fucking un-cool.
The Foundry Theatre’s gathering of exquisite NYC talent (just reading the Bio’s in the OtB program is an exercise in deep humility) shows, in a fantastic and muscular and erudite and post-ironic way, that we can still get lost in a dark room full of strangers, and does so in a way that doesn’t siphon away any of our vitality, but that rather feeds & affirms us. This affirmation is, to their collective mind, as crucial and important in our current political context as it has ever been.
There is a lovely, golden ratio operating within this work...an engaging and seductive mixture of sophistication & low-brow unselfconsciousness that serves to disarm an audience and, magically, pull a measure of innocence out of their unattended baggage.
Without spoiling too much: Maggie Hoffman (stunning, genius) and Steve Cuiffo (finally, thank God, a counterpoint to Ricky Jay) are onstage as the audience enters. Hoffman acknowledges & notes the arrival of each guest. Cuiffo is at a magician's card table, silently regaling us with nimble sleights of hand. Once the house is closed, he wades into the audience to involve us in his first of many tricks. (Cuiffo is not just an actor, but a professional magician, and a board member for the Conjuring Arts Research Center.)
There is an effusive, engaging generosity in the way that The Foundry Theatre is working here: Paul Lazar's direction makes great use of the fourth wall – I'll come back to this – and playwright Kirk Lynn's script talks offhandedly about the assembly of ”¦the script.
We are so openly invited to see into the crafting and presentation of this play – the theatrical veil (or duct tape & plastic Dep't. of Homeland Security personal shelter) is lifted and lowered to such denuding effect over the course of the show – that a playfully Brechtian self-consciousness brings the performance to the audience in a way that engenders, superbly & subversively, precisely the type of trust that could free us from our American Fear.
About that fourth wall: there's no such thing, and there never has been. It's smoke and mirrors, from Hamlet to Cowboy Mouth; Euripides to Will Eno. So Paul Lazar, Kirk Lynn, Melanie Joseph and Company decide to play with it, and flirt with it. The architecture of Major Bang's play-within-a-magic-show-within-a-play provides multiple crossroads and transitions where peek-a-boo can be shown to be exactly what it is: just that.
The ultimate goal here is to live as a human being in an actual world. Or, as the play's final monologue frames the struggle: the victory of enlightenment over fundamentalism.