NIGHTMARES OF MATERNITY
by Kestryl Lowrey
published April 4, 2008
now playing Off Broadway at the Ohio
through April 19
"What’s a mother to do when her unborn
child runs away?" asks Silver Bullet Trailer, a new play produced by The Present
Company. 'Not Much,' seems to be the answer, as Sari (portrayed by playwright Julie Shavers) is
so preoccupied with her own anxiety about impending parenthood that she hardly seems to notice her progeny's inexplicable disappearance.
Meanwhile, Brent Popolizio, as her unborn free-roaming child, sets off in search of his name and his father, The Cowboy (Chris
Populated by prostitutes, clowns, bar
wenches, and outcasts, Julie Shavers’ vision of the West evokes the crumbling ruins of the American Dream. The script picks up several
promising themes about parenthood, the search for meaning in modern life, and mythology of the nuclear family, but fails to give any of these
possibilities the attention they deserve. A concept is birthed in a frenetic flurry of choreography and action, only to be eclipsed by another
unrelated sequence. We’re left unsatisfied, wondering what insight could emerge if the piece
bothered to follow any of its ideas to fruition.
This is not to say that Shavers’ script is
without merit. A sense of humor that alternates between childish playfulness and mature wit
pervades the production, and there are provocative suggestions buried in some of the more conceptual moments. The caricatures that surround Sari and her child are amusing and unnerving, if not wholly
Chris Hury is iconic as the
Cowboy, even as he admits that he is not the Marlboro Man. Meanwhile, Spider and Man (Sean-Michael Bowles and Benjamin Ellis Fine, respectively) appear as evidence of
the hazards of contemporary society, and liven the stage even though I was often unclear of their purpose in being there. The Buckle Bunnies (Kate Albarelli, Gina Bonati, and Ashley Ward) add a substantial dose of sexuality to the
production, a necessity of any Western.
The play could benefit greatly from a
stronger directing hand. In a piece oscillating so fluidly between lucidity, nightmare, and
daydream, the transitions need to be seamless, rather than the jarring and clunky shifts that director Dan O’Brien gives us. O’Brien and
Shavers have a history of collaboration, and one wonders if in this instance that familiarity prevented him from giving the production more
With an onstage band providing an appropriately Western underscore (and occasional accompaniment when some unknown motivation
leads our heroes and heroines to sing), the piece is not a musical so much as a play with music. Phil Carluzzo’s melodies and harmonies would not be out of place in an old-fashioned saloon, lending
ambiance to the mostly bare space. Meanwhile, location is mostly suggested by projections
designed by Ian Savage, sometimes static images and sometimes disorienting film montages. While
I can guess at the intended effects of some of the cut together sequences, I’ll admit that they mostly just distracted me from the piece
(which, I should hope, was not their artistic purpose).
Silver Bullet Trailer ultimately suggests that even the perils of the world should not
discourage the emergence of new life, and that the arduous necessity of parenting is not without reward and retribution. From such potent themes, somehow, I hoped for more.
kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com