Arts & Culture Reviews

Review: Bash: Latter-Day Plays

You might know its famous Swiss cuckoo clock scene, but it’s the preceding Ferris wheel ride that bares the greatest similarities to the play. There, Orson Welles’ Henry Lime and Joseph Cotton’s Holly Martins reunite in post-WW2 Vienna in the tight car of a Ferris wheel. The actors in Bash are like Henry Lime, secretive criminals, while the audience is Joseph Cotton’s Holly Martins, constantly interrogating and trying to decipher the twisted world views and failures of the characters in their car.
In three standalone scenes, Bash uncovers the lives of three different Mormons in conversation with the audience. They speak directly to us, slowly letting us into their stories. The sparseness of the stage and lighting bring them close to the audience, as if we’re sitting in a bar together to hear each other’s intimate truths. The play’s three scenes can be presented in any order, which allows director Aaron Shenkman to wisely open with the most youthful scene and to end with a distressing look at fatherhood.
Like The Third Man, Bash centers on what men will do for satisfaction—the killing, the abandonment, the self-pity. Welles played the role of Henry Lime carefully, working to balance his past friendliness with Holly and his life of crime in Vienna. He moved between charming and fiercely intense, and so too do the actors in Bash.

Eric Cunningham and Brooke Fenton perform in Bash: Latter-Day Plays. (Photo: Emily Rendell-Watson)

None do that better than Lisa Corey in her scene, a modern interpretation of Euripides’ Medea. A young woman under the influence of a toxic school teacher, she sputters through a retelling of her life, laughing and crying back and forth. Corey sits behind a desk for the entire scene but she makes that limitation a strength, her character’s captivity to a modern Humbert Humbert being more than apparent even in her supposed introversion. Corey gets to the core of the scene without over the top theatrics, managing to sell the character’s misunderstanding of her situation—for example, she humorously treats Charlton Heston’s shouts at the end of Planet of the Apes as a sign of triumph, not doom—and capture its exhausting tragedy and humour. All that Corey has against her is the awkward way she holds her cigarette, but even that could be a nervous tic of her character.
The other two scenes orient themselves around men who misjudge what a man is supposed to be, shown in their actors’ ridiculous demeanors.
In “Gaggle of Saints,” Eric Cunningham is a violent kid from the boonies visiting New York City with his girlfriend or, as the two would like to think, fiancé. Cunningham grabs the sincere self-righteousness of his character, making him so clearly too white and too male while he flaunts his privilege and kicks it into other peoples’ stomachs. As his girlfriend, Brooke Fenton is a future wound-up housewife, unblinking and innocent, thinking true devotion is putting on lipstick in a hotel room. They have a night to remember for all the wrong reasons and a life to live together afterwards for probably the same ones.
The final scene, “Iphigenia in Orem,” centres on a businessman laughing through the details of his life with a buddy from the bar. Benjamin von Bredow’s businessman is really an as seen on TV salesman—seemingly all asshole jokes until he gets to what he’s trying to sell you. In this scene, that’d be his tragedy. Bredow feels perfectly overbearing in the role, sitting the audience down in his living room to hear him unspool a revoltingly hilarious account of how he learned to survive the business world by leaving his family at the door, or somewhere much worse. The businessman’s humour cuts out as the scene begins to end and he drinks the rest of his glass of water, which has the effect on him that alcohol would.
The Third Man’s Harry Lime is treacherous but he’s a charmer, someone who is engrossing and opinionated. The characters of Bash can be the same with their sharing of violent stories and hatefulness even when they’re victims too. The trio of central actors—Corey, Cunningham and Bredow—make Bash like riding a Ferris wheel: a short trip that can get claustrophobic, which, as it turns out for the play, is the appeal of the ride.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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