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A CurtainUp Review
Bingo With Indians
His latest production, Bingo with the Indians , which he also directs, has just vaulted its way into my Top 5 Favorite Theatrical Experiences. It's being performed at the Flea Theater, with their resident young-actor company, The Bats, which is such a natural pairing I wonder someone didn't think of it before. It's a play about a young, hungry, avant-garde New York theater troupe being performed by. . .a young, hungry, avant-garde New York theater troupe.
Bingo with the Indians chronicles a night in the life of, well, a young, hungry, avant-garde New York theater troupe in the wilds of New Hampshire. The company director, Dee, has decided that they can underwrite their upcoming season with the proceeds from a bingo game in her hometown. They drive to a small town in New Hampshire and lay out plans to bilk the bingo game, but naturally, nothing turns out as they planned.
Like all Adam Rapp plays this one isn't so much about the plot (bingo game, etc.) as it is about the intricate and unexpected character relationships. Stash, Wilson and Steve are some of the funniest and most warmly drawn of Rapp's characters. Stash, played to perfection by Cooper Daniels, is the brash and dangerous lead actor of the troupe. He's good-looking and talented, and he knows it. He prefers to spend his energies scoring drugs than in putting any effort into his burgeoning career. His coke-fueled one-man performance near the end of the show has physicality and comedic timing à la early Steve Martin), and is a play highlight.
Wilson (Rob Yang) is the anti-Stash, the quiet and sarcastic stage manager who manages to surprise us with his expert manipulation of Steve. that brings us to Steve (Evan Enderle), the bumbling, shy 19-year-old who runs the motel with his parents and stumbles into the troupe's room. Steve is awkward and unsure of himself, but desperately wants to escape his small-town New Hampshire life. He attempts to ingratiate himself with the other characters, hoping to run away to New York with them, but they merely see Steve as a somewhat entertaining diversion and join Wilson in manipulating him to serve their own ends. While the other company members are equally good, these three actors, Daniels, Yang and Enderle, form the triumvirate heart of the show's energy. The strangely long and narrow Flea stage is used to great effect by Rapp as director. Even the low wall separating the playing space from the audience is put to use, most notably during the "company fight call." Rapp uses a number of unexpected angles, and keeps the audience's attention firmly on the surprising character relationships.
In Bingo with the Indians Rapp showcases the originality and talent that downtown theater is known for.
Editor's Note: Except for his near Pulitzer Prize winner, Red Light Winter, Adam Rapp's plays tend to be most thrilling for those who prefer way downtown theater to Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. This is the third new Rapp play to be staged this season. More than likely, our en-Rapp-tured critic would have liked American Sligo better than I did. However, in the interest of full disclosure, when she reviewed Essential Self Defense she admitted that it left her scratching her head — though like a true Rapp-ist she declared that being stymied by a play, as she was by that one, could be considered to be stimulating rather than a bad thing. --e.s.