Hostage Song: Rock in a Hard Place

One of the most unexpected things about Clay McLeod Chapman and Kyle Jarrow's new indie-rock musical Hostage Song is how funny it can be at times.  When lights come up on two battered and blindfolded people (Hanna Cheek and Paul Thureen), in a sordid room with the only furniture an overturned filing cabinet and a couple of chairs.  It is eventually revealed that they've been taken hostage in an unfamiliar country, and their images and story have been broadcast to the US.  There were other hostages, but they have already been decapitated. To keep their sanity and to take them out of their pain, the two rely on gallows humor and fantasy. Their fantasies mainly are romantic, with the two acting out everything from a first meeting in a bar to him meeting her parents for the first time.  Memories and reflections of their loved ones also drop in, the woman's father (writer Clay McLeod Chapman), who tells embarrassing stories about his daughter's childhood on television; and the man's wife and son (Hannah Bos and Abe Goldfarb), who speak as if the hostages were already dead, which adds an ominous air to the proceedings.  The music serves as comment on the action, in a Brechtian mode, and sometimes as part of the character's fantasy lives.

Chapman's writing is visceral and intense.  His characters and their stories are sprinkled with telling details and absurdly beautiful images and turns of phrase.  Kyle Jarrow's music is hard rock, suiting the characters' rage and plight, but doesn't sacrifice melody for badassedness.

Oliver Butler's direction is exemplary, pulling great performances out of his actors and making excellent use of the unique Kraine Theatre space.

The two lead performers handle the difficult demands of acting and singing with their hands bound and with blindfolds on with miraculous ability.  The other three are excellent monologists who clearly and simply let the words carry them.  Mr. Goldfarb also shows off an excellent singing voice.

The band (Author Kyle Jarrow, Drew St. Aubin, Paul Bates and Jonathan Sherrill) rocks hard.

Mike Riggs' lighting helps guide us through what's real and not, and Sean Tribble's costumes are perfect.  Ric Chavarria's sound is never overpowering, and Amanda Rehbein's set is appropriately spare.

It's really superb.  Go see it.

Hostage Song
A Horse Trade Production

The Kraine Theater
85 E. 4th St., New York, NY (between 2nd & 3rd avenues)
1st floor, no Wheelchair access.

April 3-26, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm.

Tickets $18 SmartTix.com or 212-868-4444


Photos: 

1. Paul Thureen and Hanna Cheek
2. Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen


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Duncan Pflaster Duncan Pflaster is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been produced all over. He also has been known to direct, write music, play the ukulele, and (if his arm is twisted) act. He won second place in the 2009 Stage and Cinema's New York City Theater Review Contest. www.duncanpflaster.com