Stomp and Shout (an' Work it All Out)
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
May 30, 2008
Stomp and Shout (an' Work It All Out) is James Carmichael's new play based on the FBI's infamous investigation into the lyrics of the hit pop song "Louie, Louie." It stomps, shouts, and rocks out at the 45th Street Theatre. Centered around the tenacious examination of the song lyrics by two determined FBI agents, the play explores a nation coming of age during a turbulent period of self-discovery.
The play examines the hysteria surrounding the incomprehensible lyrics of Richard Berry song "Louie, Louie" as recorded by the garage rock band the Kingsmen in 1963. The investigation proceedings range from hilarious (repeatedly playing the song to decipher the unintelligible lyrics) to absurd (the song is banned in some parts of the country, because it is considered obscene). This obsession over the supposedly profane song makes for an ideal backdrop to the depiction of campus and home life in America as the political rift grows between government, parents, and the nation's youth. The story's issues resonate today as much as they did 40 years ago (the illegal forced enrollment of students into the ROTC, the determination of what is considered obscene, etc.).
Geordie Broadwater's airtight direction brings Carmichael's play and its tumultuous era to life; it pulses with the backbeat of a classic rock and roll song. Broadwater takes advantage of Carmichael's up-tempo dialogue technique to great dramatic effect: The characters often speak in unfinished clipped phrases, oftentimes interrupting each other or themselves to finish or clarify thoughts. And the devices utilized here are terrific: projected subtitles to indicate the locales; fluid, rapid-fire transitions between scenes; collapsible set pieces; authentic record players.
Here is an excellent teaming of an exciting new play and a gifted cast. The characters are all at once earnest and impassioned in their convictions. And every member of the exceptional ensemble cast is up to the task. They are completely immersed in Carmichael's story.
Frank Rodriguez gives a commanding performance as the conflicted, proud FBI agent Ray Rasco at odds with his daughter who's having difficulty adjusting to a new town. Katrina Foy is sweetly earnest and innocent as his daughter. Jeremy Schwartz gives a wonderful performance as senior FBI agent Chris Oxley; his alcohol-fueled descent over the course of the investigation is compelling. William Jackson Harper is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of a passionate student activist being hounded by the FBI as he attempts to enlighten his fellow students. Schwartz and Harper are particularly riveting onstage together. Brian D. Coats, Khris Lewin, Carolyn McCandlish, and Joseph C. Sullivan are also outstanding in key supporting roles.
Tristan Jeffers's versatile set features details from LPs to schoolbooks and allows locales to shift effortlessly from airplane to drive-in to college campus. Matt Hubbs (sound design) appropriately supplies a varied pop soundtrack with snippets of gems by Sam Cooke, Trini Lopez, Lesley Gore and others. Differing musical tastes help to underscore the differing viewpoints of the characters in the story. Eric Southern's skillful lighting design enables the set to transform moods and settings. Becky Lasky's period costumes compliment the actors well and allow for some to perform double or triple duty as different distinct characters.