Bombs in your mouth
nytheatre.com review by Lyssa Mandel
August 11, 2007
It wasn't until simplicity reared its refreshing head that I realized how starved I had been for it. Thanks to Corey Patrick, managing director of The rUDE mECHANICALS and the author of bombs in your mouth, the 2007 FringeNYC can boast a tight, nuanced little tragicomedy that isn't weighed down by complicated conceits.
The happily uncluttered premise consists of the reunion of Lily and Danny, half-siblings who share a recently deceased father, for the funeral and its aftermath on a freezing Minnesota afternoon. Following the brief, uncouth proceedings, the two retire to their father's house to hash out their feelings, their nostalgia, and their father's dying wishes—which have been tellingly written, along with his candid "memoirs," on a roll of toilet paper.
Such is the appealing nature of bombs: true to life, it is in a constant balancing act on the line between bitterness and uproarious absurdity. Danny, played with fierce specificity by Patrick himself, and Lily, given a grown-up tomboyishness by Cass Bugge, are at one moment in a beer-chugging competition that would do a frat boy proud and at the next, steeped in nostalgia for their respective mothers. The balancing act motif resonates as well in the no-man's-land between the siblings' childhood and adulthood. Patrick is especially controlled in his execution of Danny's fast-changing emotions, living comfortably in the body of a Midwestern filling station employee who shows signs of unexpected tenderness toward his long-lost sister, whether offering her his bed to take a nap (having put in the effort to make the room smell less like "boy") or another can of beer.
Specificity is in fact Patrick's best asset here, both as a writer and an actor. Down to the Tupperware full of gag-worthy sympathy meals from neighbors, references to Perkins Restaurant, and the need to eat spaghetti with spoons—Dad was afraid of forks—the apartment comes alive as a bitter cold deserted island that seems to lack any sense of time but allows a laser-sharp focus on the moment-to-moment punchlines of sibling love. Director Joseph Ward shapes the constant ups and downs like a heartbeat. Though there are moments when Bugge's full realization of Lily's stakes come into question—this is, after all, about the life and death of her father—they are quickly forgotten in the next round of shots fired. Patrick raises the bar as Danny even in trivialities like arm-wrestling. And though some of the banter falters into cliché, it is only in such a way as to keep the conversation in a realm of reality, balancing out the cleverness to safeguard from a comedy act. "Will you please have a fucking arm wrestle with me? Dad just died," snaps Lily, and we are at once struck by the simultaneous desires to laugh, cringe, and revel in the familiarity of such a thing. Innocence follows screaming in quick succession, and much of it is played with clear, blue honesty. Book-ending the scenes is a subtle, eerie soundtrack composed by Patrick Force that gives even fuller color to the wintry landscape.
Corey Patrick and his collaborators have honed a solid hour of entertainment. bombs in your mouth strips away superfluous tricks and distractions to make room for the essence that is truly a pleasure in a piece of simple theatre: real people, and their ways of connecting...in a vacuum.