Monday, September 17, 2007

PLAY: FRINGE, "bombs in your mouth"

Photo/John Scott

The bombs in the mouth from Corey Patrick's provocative title turn out to be nothing more than a poetic usage of popcorn, but the play is still plenty provocative. Bombs in your mouth is a compact comic drama about half-siblings reuniting in their Minnesotan home after six years to grieve the father neither of them loved. It isn't long before they start grieving their own more important failures, abetted by a few beer-chugging contests, some scatological childhood memories, and the sort of raging emotions that put the fun in dysfunction.

Patrick's script doesn't explain the dementia that led their father to write his memoirs on a roll of toilet paper, Kerouac style, nor the sudden snap that made Lily (Cass Bugge) write one of her ad spots as a whore thanking Valtrex for reducing her herpes long enough to get her bent over a table every now and again. Instead, the story puts us in their shoes, surrounding them with the frightening detritus of a life half-lived: cold spaghetti with tomato sauce and ketchup, Jello mold, beer, and Vikings blankets. It's not apparent at first what particular stick is up Danny's ass (Patrick), until we learn that his life--his entire world--goes only as far as the Pump 'n Pay he works at. He's not an alcoholic so much as a survivalist.

The greatest accomplishment of bombs in your mouth is how quiet something so raw can be. Director Joseph Ward understands what so many people in charge don't: that the sincerity of not knowing is a powerful, sympathetic, forgiving notion. As a result, there's not a moment that isn't focused and crisp, even if many of those moments are either nonsense arguments that rise out of agreements or are broken confessions of uncertainty. For all that the show yo-yos from highs to lows, Ward and his cast make it look more than natural: they make it plausible. By the end of bombs in your mouth, it's not just the squalling siblings who love each other: we love them, too.

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