BWW Review: BASTARD at The Living Room Theatre
It is a first ever production of a new play simply titled "Bastard" by Kansas City playwright and artist Tyson Schroeder presented at the tiny studio theater on the third level of The Living Room Theatre in the Crossroads area. Directed by Living Room co-founder Shawnna Jouragan, "Bastard" is a screed on the tyranny of making art and the superficiality of those who pretend to appreciate it.
"Bastard" is a surprising, if supremely cynical, view of a family spiraling toward alcohol induced schizophrenia and moral dissolution. YB (Matt Leonard) and Ella (Vanessa Davis) married in college. They have a teenage daughter named Caitlyn (Daria LeGrand). YB is a "fine artist" but with a serious drinking problem, a troubled marriage, and a possible mental break from reality. He hears voices. These voices are personified in the piece's fourth character called Bastard (Rusty Sneary).
YB and Bastard are very much like the kindly Dr. Jekyll and the evil Mr. Edward Hyde ala mid-19th century Charles Dickens. Ella is disapproving and suspicious of her husband. One way or another this marriage is going to get killed off either by suspicion, by alcohol, or by Bastard (Mr. Hyde).
The language for this presentation is rough. It is not recommended for many adults much less than for younger folks. Yet somehow in this framework, the language seems to work. The playwright has a gift for dialogue that fits the words together and convinces the audience that the characters are real.
The director has the rare ability to make the audience care about these damaged souls in a minimal, yet sufficient evocative setting. The four actors are all convincing and very good in their roles. I was impressed with each and every one.
The marriage does break-up, time passes, Bastard completely takes over, and Caitlyn, who has inherited her father's art talent, longs for a rapprochement with her absent and besotted parent. YB makes a last attempt to become the dominant personality. Father and daughter agree to try to connect, but Bastard reappears and, in a final, spectacular explosion, kills off the body both he and YB have inhabited.
Caitlyn inherits her father's studio and the many of the demons that made him both commercially successful and fatally unstable.
It would be too much to say that I enjoyed this play. It is very dark, rough tongued, and upsetting. Bastard is also engaging, well-acted, and thought provoking.
"Bastard" continues at The Living Room Theatre through October 29. Tickets are available at http://www.thelivingroomkc.com/ or by telephone at 816-533-5857.
Photos courtesy of The Living Room Theatre and Brian Paulette.