BAND OF BROODERS and ABSTINENCE ONLY Set for La MaMa, 8/29-9/2
"Band of Brooders" and "Abstinence Only," two short plays by Jim Pangrazio, directed by Jason Hale, depict Americans fighting to free themselves-from Americans and are set to play The First Floor Theater (74A East Fourth Street) for Summer Shares at La Mama, August 29 to September 2, 2012. Presented by Nucleo Eclecttico Theatre, a Denis Diderot Production.
Tickets are $25; students and seniors $20. The playing schedule is 8:00 Wed-Fri at 8:00 PM; Sat and Sun at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM (7 performances only). Box office: SMARTTIX, www.smarttix.com, 212-868-4444. For more about the show, visit www.bandofbrooders.com. Running time: One hour. Critics are invited to all performances.
The mystery of why Americans constantly march off to war is as confounding as the question of why we cling to our puritanism. These conundrums are explored in "Band of Brooders" and "Abstinence Only," two short plays by Jim Pangrazio, directed by Jason Hale, to be presenTed August 29 to September 2 in The First Floor Theater, 74A East Fourth Street as part of Summer Shares at La MaMa. Together, the plays illuminate the restrictions in our own society that repress us more than outside forces ever could.
"Band of Brooders" is loosely based on the Patrick Tillman incident of 2004 and presents the conflicting reasons why some Americans chose to fight in today's wars and the consequences to them. Four Army Rangers in a remote area of Afghanistan anxiously await their evacuation from a recon assignment. The recent loss of their squad leader forces them to come to terms with their experiences and face the reality that they are engaged in an unjust war. Discord in the squad over their mission reveals personal impulses for each soldier's actions that lie disturbingly far from the battlefield.
The soldiers assail each other for the reasons they enlisted, including financial benefits, guarantees of citizenship and other personal gains. The playwright's point is that those who freely join the military for "innocent" reasons, and then participate in criminal military actions, are no better than soldiers from "bad" countries who do the same. The Rangers ridicule each other with cynical barbs, uncovering the quandary of today's soldiers, who fight not for ideals but for their material needs. The principled soldier of the four, who calls his comrades scabs in service of the state and prostitutes when they benefit from their service, is killed at the end.
Through the soldiers, the playwright is condemning the lies we are confronted with, in both military and civilian life. To Pangrazio, traditional forms of dissent are ineffective and being "outside of society's reasoning" is the only useful form of dissent, because today, reasonable colloquies are too easily parried by well-practiced rebuttals in political discourse.
The play is performed by Burnie Du Rant Jr., Kristin Fireman, Eduardo Asunsolo and Eamon Speer.
"Abstinence Only" questions the severe limitations on personal freedom in a country that claims to be free. An intruder has entered a NYC studio apartment where two psychology students were having a one-night stand, robbing them and binding them together naked. Their evening becomes a chaotic struggle as they fear the exposure of calling for help.
The play pulls sly comedy and social satire out of the quirky way that college and grad students "parrot" their copious academic reading, especially in discussions among themselves. Even in a robbery, these students can't refrain from bookish talk. Playwright Jim Pangrazio makes it clear in his notes that his play takes aim at the "very sick" federal programs that preach sexual abstinence to adolescents. He feels that state interference in such intimate matters serves as the basis for subversion of all of our personal rights. In the play, Lori is afraid to call for help because being caught in a sexual tryst would hurt her career. To arrest Jack's arousal, they talk about what they are currently reading. Discussing the views of Wilhelm Reich and Witold Gombrowicz frees Lori from her fears, only to reveal that another aspect of our sex economy is what led to their predicament.
The play is acted by Shay Hannon, Nick Mahoney and Christian Caldwell.
Lighting design for both plays is by Peter Leonard. Choreography is by Crystal Chapman.
Jim Pangrazio (playwright) has had a career in the printing industry and as a news writer. He was drafted into the US Army 1968 and served primarily in Germany. He later graduated from U. of Connecticut with degree in philosophy. He did some work with the Nucleo Eclettico, a very active theater group in Boston, in the 70's and 80's, and continued to work with Marco Zarattini, founder of the Nucleo, in the following years. Pangrazio became interested in playwriting with the encouragement of Zarattini after the latter observed him staging a play at Boston U. in 2006. "Band of Brooders" was written with much guidance from Zarattini. Pangrazio's play "FreeDumb" was staged at the Palazzo Casotti (Regio Emilia Italy) in April 2011. A staged reading of his play, "On Top of Mount Zion," was held at the Kraine Theater, NYC in March 2012. A workshop production of "Band of Brooders" and "Abstinence Only" was mounted at the 45th Street Theater in May, 2012. This production is his NY stage debut.
Jason Hale (director) most recently directed an acclaimed production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" at the National Turkish State Theater in Ankara. It is currently touring Turkey and has been selected to be performed at the Sabanci InterNational Theatre Festival in Adana and Istanbul. Hale has directed Off and Off- Off Broadway and at regional theaters in the U.S. and internationally. He worked for many years as an assistant to director John Uecker and as a personal assistant writer James Purdy. He assisted Mr. Uecker during the 1996 world premiere production of Tennessee Williams' later short plays, "The Traveling Companion" and "The Chalky White Substance." He went on to direct and co-produce several rarely produced Tennessee Williams plays at various theaters in NYC. He is also a prolific teacher of the Viola Spolin method of improvisation and used the technique as the basis for actor training at the Theatre Project Ensemble, a New York City non-profit theater company he co-founded. As a teacher of acting, he has taught at NYU, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, School of Visual Arts, Antioch University, HB Studios, New Actors Workshop, and guest teaches in Mexico and Turkey. He is a member of SDC and an actor. (www.jasonhale.net)
Photo credits: Jonathan and Julia Slaff