Review: Bullet For Adolf (Children at Play Productions)

By Dorianne Emmerton

I kind of love Woody Harrelson. Not only does he have a string of stellar performances in fabulous movies and a history of environmental and peace activism, but he also loves Toronto.

Bullet for Adolf is his second production in the city, and his first at Hart House Theatre, a venue he happened upon by accident and fell in love with. It is a semi-autobiographical tale of young people hanging out, falling in love and getting into trouble in 1983.

I expected there to be a fair bit of politics in this play, given that Harrelson is a well-known lefty and the title references fascism. But there isn’t really any high minded message in the show. The only political topic that really comes up is race relations. As Harrelson explains in his Director’s note, he “hadn’t hung much with black folks” before he met Frankie Hyman when they were both working on a construction site in Houston.

Frankie is a character in the show, played by Robbie Rowe, but there’s no Woody. The Harrelson analog is pretty obviously the character named Zach, played by Brandon Coffrey. Hyman claims in his note in the program that “the characters are real, the dynamics are also…” It’s pretty impressive that Hyman and Harrelson have stayed friends in the many years since and one can’t help but wonder if their other old friends from the 80s know they are being characterized on a Toronto stage.

The most memorable character is Dago-Czech, played by Billy Petrovski. He is the best portrayal of a “wigger” I’ve seen since Gary Oldman in True Romance and a catalyst for much of the race-related humour. Clint, played by David Coomber, also provides many laughs with his neurotic behaviour and semi-nude state throughout much of the show.

As is common with comedies penned by men, the female love interests don’t get to be as wildly funny as the male characters. Shareeta, played by Meghan Swaby, who becomes a bit of a lust interest for Zach but not really a love interest, definitely has the funniest lines of all the female characters. Batina, played by Vanessa Smythe and Jackie played by Tashieka McTaggart, have some moments of hilarity, such as when Batina forces some unconventional yoga moves on Jackie.

The title refers to an antique gun belonging to Batina’s father and the construction crew boss Jurgen, played by Thomas Gough. The gun is stolen during Batina’s birthday party and Jurgen is determined to get it back.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a theatre production that made me laugh so much. There is just so much humour, all the way from some reasonably highbrow stuff to slapstick – literally slapstick because there are at least three incidents of characters getting slapped.

Harrelson’s decision to cast non-Equity actors was controversial, but I think it’s kind of great that he gave these young unknowns an opportunity of a lifetime. They were all very strong, albeit with fairly one-dimensional characters. They obviously deserved this chance.

Seeing Bullet for Adolf won’t change your life. It won’t challenge you or make you think. But it will make you laugh until you’re gasping for breath, and that is a very fine thing indeed.

Details

– Bullet for Adolf is playing at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until May 7

-Shows run Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Saturday matinees at 2 pm

– Ticket prices are $32 for adults, $18 for students and seniors $18.

– Available at 416.978.8849 or www.bulletforadolf.com

Photo Credit: Sophie Giraud

6 thoughts on “Review: Bullet For Adolf (Children at Play Productions)”

  1. this is a lousy review.
    the play sucked. it did not even get me to crack one smile.
    if the play had been written by Taratino, directed by Oliver Stone, and starred Woody it may have had a chance.
    a brutal theatre experience. save your money.
    do not go. gasping for breath? only in my haste to leave the place.

  2. Kevin,

    I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment, and I think it’s great to have a differing opinion on the site.

    I just want to take issue with you saying this is a lousy review. Sure, it’s an opinion that you don’t agree with, but that doesn’t make it a bad review, it makes it something you don’t agree with.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, you hated it, fair enough, Dorianne didn’t, also fair enough. You can express your opinion without casting aspersions on someone else because of their views.

  3. ‘kevin’… did we see the same play. I find it very hard to believe that one character, one line, one video clip did not as you say have you crack a smile.

    perhaps you should try it again with an open mind.

  4. I think Dorianne was right on the money. There was nothing deep about this play but it was truly entertaining.

    I have recommended the play to all my colleagues and friends.

  5. For what it is worth, because I have been thinking a lot about this lately, Kevin’s comment is a perfect example of a terrible review. Albeit, his is a review of a review, but it struck me that what makes his comments dismissible and irritating are that they are simple rooted in opinion. He doesn’t provide a real analysis or insight about Dorianne’s review, therefore it is simply anecdotal opinion. That said, Kevin’s style and approach is all too often how reviews are written. Sure they may be much longer, and more detailed, but they generally boil down to good or bad, thumbs up, thumbs down, hated it or loved it, and lets not forget the amazing STAR system. I urge all reviewers to find the art in criticism. To think of the community they are writing for and about, and to remember above all that these are living breathing human beings they are writing about, who are against all odds are trying to express themselves artistically and provide artistic nourishment to our communities. If you wouldn’t say a quick witless damaging remark to their face, how could you dare write it for all to read. I urge you to imagine when you are writing that you are reading it out loud to those who worked on the production, and then ask yourself the value of your commentary. Is it offering any real outside insight? Or are you excited to simply share your “razor wit”, in the hopes of showing off just how clever you may think you are. That approach of course is one that is about serving the reviewers ego, rather then serving the community they are writing for. This is directed to no one in particular, but is just a general message to all reviewers of this website. I hope the theatre community continues to grow and prosper and provide you all more opportunities to share your love of it.

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