Bullet for Adolf
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
August 4, 2012
Woody Harrelson and Frankie Hyman's new play, Bullet for Adolf is like nothing I've ever seen. It is an enigma. Is it a drama? A comedy? A period piece? A political satire? A resonant statement about racism? A farce?! What exactly happens? After 2 hours and 20 minutes at New World Stages I can say with complete certainty that I have no idea.
This is not to say that the production is unenjoyable. I laughed frequently and the overly long runtime clipped along nicely. I can confidently say it was one of the strangest, most bizarre theatrical experiences I have ever had outside of an abstract or avant-garde play or performance art piece. Here's why.
The play is also directed by Harrelson so it shouldn't be a surprise that everything centers around a classic "Woody Harrelson-esque" character, Zach, who lives and works with two of his friends, Frankie and Clint. They work, drink, do drugs, chase girls (played by Shamika Cotton, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Shannon Garland) and say witty, nasty things to each other. ("Sorry I'm late. I was masturbating to National Geographic and that always takes a little bit longer.") Somehow they are invited to their boss's daughter's 18th birthday party where they are shown a World War II artifact, a Derringer pistol which was said to have been used in an assassination attempt on Hitler. The pistol is stolen at the end of Act I. It is returned midway through Act II and the play ends with no one going to jail, some people starting a relationship and everyone having a picnic. I don't regret giving this complete rundown of the plot because, as anyone can see, nothing really happens. There are no stakes. Nothing is life and death. There is no reason.
Bullet for Adolf is, without question, a homage to the 1980s. Each transition between scenes is filled with smart, entertaining 1980s pop culture video clips and awesome, classic '80s tunes. They are presented dynamically and chosen to please anyone who loves and appreciates the Pepsi Generation. In case the videos don't drive home the era in which the play is set, Dane Laffrey's scenic design includes three crisp posters of the era on the wall of the dingy, home base apartment Zach, Clint and Frankie share: Rocky III, Farah Fawcett's most famous shot and, of course, Flashdance.
The set design is a metaphor for the entire tone of the piece. While the cast is clearly made up of talented performers, including Brandon Coffey as Zach, Tyler Jacob Rollinson as Frankie and the brilliant David Coomber as Clint, everyone is playing a stereotype and yells. Every. Line. Coomber is nothing less than a gift to the production finding clean and honest moments in the sole complex character in the text and stealing every scene in which he appears. He finds originality and clarity in a play full of chaos. Bullet for Adolf is made up of a smattering of dialects, a barrage of "spliffs" and "motherfuckers" and lots of clever word play, puns, and, oddly, Shakespeare quotes. What's that you say? That makes no sense? That's absolutely right. It doesn't.
So, if you go, don't go with any expectations. Just go and be a witness and allow yourself to leave the theatre unsatisfied. Expect to be entertained and reminded of a different time. A time when a pre-Cheers Harrelson met a lifelong friend, Hyman, almost 30 years before this play would be produced. Truly, I walked out of the theatre dumbstruck and essentially stunned by the sheer oddness of what I had just seen. Something tells me Harrelson and Hyman would be completely fine with that.