BINGO! AN EXCEPTIONAL NEW ACTOR
by Harvey Perr
published November 13, 2007
Bingo With the Indians
now playing Off Broadway at The Flea
through December 22
The word is already out that Adam Rapp is one of our most promising and thrillingly original new playwrights, and his new play, “Bingo With the Indians” at the Flea Theater, will not in any way alter that opinion. What I want to point out now is that Rapp writes wonderful parts for actors, and when an actor takes full advantage of the opportunity to bring one of those parts to full fruition – as Paul Sparks did when he galvanized Rapp’s “American Sligo” earlier this season with his mesmerizing performance – the chances are we’re going to come across a really fine young actor. In the new play, it is Evan Enderle who has risen to the occasion and I am here to throw my baseball cap up in the air and sing his praises to whomever is willing to listen. I have never seen him before and I have no idea how much experience he has, but, on the basis of his firmly grounded and seamless work here, it is safe to say that he is a natural.
Enderle is Steve, a nerdish motel employee – think Dennis Weaver in “A Touch of Evil” – who, upon hearing loud noises in one of the motel rooms, comes in to check up on what might be going on. He finds Dee, a hot-blooded and surly “bike dyke” – think Mercedes McCambridge in, well, what do you know, “A Touch of Evil” – and her cohorts, Stash and Wilson. They are members of an East Village guerilla theater troupe who have come to the small New Hampshire town – where Dee grew up – to rob a bingo game and to use the proceeds to produce their “radical” new play. (Ah, the lengths poor theater folk have to go to in order to get a play produced!) Steve recognizes Dee, despite her claims that she is not whom Steve thinks she is, but rather a mean old lesbian named Big Daddy. In a space as small as the Flea’s downstairs theater, every shift of emotion on the landscape of Enderle’s face, even with his hair falling over his eyes, registers totally and, within seconds, he expresses all the fear and hope and desire and panic and pleasure that come with confronting simultaneously the known and the unknown, and the fact that, beneath the shyness and diffidence, there is a curious tenacity, the tenacity of someone seeking an escape from his own boring life no matter what the cost. When he is left alone with Wilson, the playwright, Steve “auditions” for Wilson’s play by reading a scene which, as it moves along, clearly blurs the lines between “play” and “reality” and Steve’s transformation from uncertainty and doubt to pained excitement perfectly mirrors the crescendo of conflicting feelings the play itself is aiming for. This moment will be remembered long after the details of Rapp’s play fade away.
Rapp is a furious and funny writer and, even when one finds the play moving beyond one’s grasp, Rapp’s assurance keeps us feverishly fascinated. He seems to have some trouble ending his plays and the jury is still out on whether or not Rapp is his own best interpreter, since his direction often goes for the jugular when the script seems to have subtler things on its mind. But he does get interesting performances from his actors. Rob Yang’s Wilson is superb and Cooper Daniels does a cocaine-induced rendition of a “performance piece” about a “Turd burglar” which is one of the most hilarious demonstrations of sheer insanity this reviewer has ever seen. Only Missel Leddington, as Steve’s sad mother, mourning the suicide of her daughter, fails to find a kernel of recognizable truth in her playing.
There are all sorts of reasons to make sure you see “Bingo With the Indians.” But if you miss it, you will miss Evan Enderle’s career-transforming performance. I will consider it great good fortune if I come across a better piece of acting this season.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com