'Bonnie & Clyde' at TheatreWorks New Milford
"Bonnie and Clyde were criminals who caught the attention of the public and never let go." This play looks "beyond the headlines at the two people who became those legendary outlaws." ~ Joseph Russo, Director
The east coast premiere of Adam Peck's drama Bonnie and Clyde opened on Friday at TheatreWorks New Milford. Based on the true story, the play is an intimate re-telling of the final hours of two twenty-somethings who stopped at nothing to realize their American dreams and is not based on any other movie or show. Director Joseph Russo wrote of the English playwright's drama that this is "only the second production of his play in the United States and, to my knowledge, the fourth in the world." Opening night was toasted with champagne during a post-show reception as it always is at TheatreWorks, but this one was probably a little more special for the cast and crew as the play debuted in Connecticut 80 years after the infamous couples final days.
Bonnie and Clyde (Marilyn Hart of New Milford and Adam Stordy of Sandy Hook) have found one last place to hide in an abandoned barn in an unnamed state in 1934. The drama is laced with humor, tenderness and a strong sense of desperation as these legendary outlaws are most assuredly made human. It does not glorify the two and in fact implies that they were exaggerated by the media of the time.
The experience of the show began as the audience entered the small theater. Mr. Russo designed an elaborate newsreel-inspired preshow slide presentation on the beautifully lit stage "to set the historical moment." He "coupled it with contemporary music, bridging eras," and added some carefully chosen memorabilia and background information about this depressing time in American history in the program. I was so glad that I had arrived early to pick up my complimentary ticket and had plenty of time to fully experience all of it.
When all of this transitioned into the shows opening, the audience was transfixed as they witnessed this brief moment in history. During the ninety-minute play which is presented without intermission, traditional banjo "musings" by John Bolster are interwoven in the fabric of the show, but theatrical effects are kept to a minimum until one climactic moment at the end. By doing so, the director has made that ending so very powerful.
I liked that the playwright stops the action for Clyde to foreshadow what is about to happen to the couple; this was done masterfully by Mr. Stordy who unbelievably makes his theater debut with this production. (I thought that it must have been a typo in his bio, but Ms. Hart reiterates the fact in her bio.) The actor is a natural onstage and brought a strong presence to Clyde Barrow. This play was certainly not an easy piece with which to begin one's theatrical resume and this young man pulled it off. As Bonnie Parker, Ms. Hart is just as strong. Obviously in love with her partner in crime and quite intelligent, Bonnie was a woman with many facets and this actress shows them all.
The production values at this venue are always top notch but I am sure that the playwright himself would be impressed. Mr. Russo has directed and designed this show so very thoughtfully. He also designed the costumes and the set featuring a working water pump and "scenic decoupage" by the talented Glenn R. Couture. Special mention also must go to the amazing lighting effects designed by co-producer Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski for outdoing themselves on this one. Bill Hughes is co-producer and Reesa Roccapriore is stage manager.