By Robert Wray; Directed by Marty Moore
Produced by cakes'n'ale
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.15
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Artem Yatsunov on 8.19.15
Rodney Umble, Mariah Johnson, and Robert Rydland in Bullet For Unaccompanied Heart. Photo by Marty Moore.
BOTTOM LINE: If watching two past lovers relive their best (but mostly worst) moments together is your "thang," you could probably dig this three piece bluesy etude.
At rise we discover blues-man Dugan McBane seated on a bar stool with guitar in hand, looking as iconic as an album cover. As a sucker for the blues genre, Bullet for an Unaccompanied Heart’s opening image got me from the get-go. Although this ode to the blues suffers from early draft shortcomings and feels at least 15 minutes too long, it is also lush with tragic poetry.
Dugan longs for his lost love Anya, who has committed suicide. Since the incident, Dugan has become a recluse, obsessing and reliving their relationship. As he undergoes his epic journey through his darkest memories with Anya, we hope he’ll finally find peace.
Mariah Johnson, as the tragic Anya, brings a vulnerable, sensual vitality to this doomed muse; she’s cute but unapologetic. Opposite her, Rodney Umble as Dugan is more of an Elvis Costello than an Elvis Presley—less alpha, more every-blues-man. Umble's Dugan has a natural, unaffected masculinity, both relatable and hopeless.
The least developed character of the play is Milo, a thuggish physicalized symbol of Dugan’s guilt over Anya’s passing. Robert Ryland embodies Milo with sleaze and gravity. Even though he has a good time with the character, as does the audience, I still found Milo’s presence undermined Anya and Dugan’s efforts to wrestle free from their demons on their own. The chemistry between Johnson and Umble is sweet, but not simmering. No sweaty, passionate, back of a taxi cab kind of caustic chemistry. It’s there in Robert Wray’s script, but director Marty Moore has curiously chosen to back off the flames.
As the actors fluidly move between poetic vignettes of the past and the present, I found myself wanting to hear the blues of their world. The sound design was definitely missed; no house tunes, no incidental music. Especially in staple settings for romance—i.e., bars and train stations—we could have used a few bursting notes from Lightin’ Hopkins coming off a juke box, or maybe just a solitary and understanding growl from Tom Waits. Beyond three or four short lived bursts of live singing, the blues atmosphere is completely missed.
(Bullet For Unaccompanied Heart plays at VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 27, 2015. Performances are Sat 8/15 at 9:30; Tue 8/18 at 7; Fri 8/21 at 4:45; Tue 8/25 at 4:45; and Thu 8/27 at 9:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more info visit bulletheart.wix.com/fringe.)