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Theatre Review (LA): Bingo With The Indians by Adam Rapp at TheatreTheater

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Adam Rapp is a fascinating playwright described by Marsha Norman as “a writer the world is going to listen to as long as he felt like writing — he writes like nobody else, his fierce poetic power as inescapable as the doom that waits for his characters.” He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, wrote the movie Winter Passing, wrote a novel that was censored by the Muhlenberg School Board, consulted on the television show The L Word, and is also a musician. I first encountered Mr. Rapp’s work at The Black Dahlia Theatre, and so was intrigued to see this latest venture, Bingo with the Indians, which is getting its West Coast premiere by the Rogue Machine company in the smaller space at TheatreTheater.

Bingo with the Indians is part of Rogue Machine’s “Off The Clock” series, which features bold, edgy theatre for the “artistically daring crowd.” The play lives up to my expectations. It concerns a group of theatrical misfits if ever there were any, who plan to rob a bingo game in one of the actors’ hometown. Along the way one member seduces and more or less rapes a young man from the motel they are staying at.

Their lesbian director, famous for her bizarre theatrical pieces, ends up picking up the motel clerk’s girlfriend at the bingo parlor. There is also a volatile actor who ends up being beaten by the troupe when he spends their startup funds meant for the new production on cocaine. Add to this mix the mother of a motel employee who argues that his compromising sexual encounter with one of the actors is just part of a play.

The story is a wild, strange satire about the lengths actors will go to in order to put on a play. The actors are, by necessity, over the top in their portrayals. They all give brave performances but I want to single out a couple for especially fine work. The best scenes are between West Liang as the sexual predator and Brian Norris as the motel boy he seduces. Their work is outstanding: Liang conveys true menace and sexuality, while Norris channels his inner Ron Howard. Others in the fine cast are Patrick Flanagan, Melissa Paladino, Corryn Cummins, Ann Bronston (hilarious as the mother), and Ron Joseph as a visiting Indian.

Bingo with the Indians plays on a late-night schedule but does have a Sunday late afternoon show. It plays at TheatreTheater until June 7th.

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