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Bonnie & Clyde at TheatreWorks

By Mary Hembree, Citizen News


When it comes to the theatre, I'm beginning to wonder if there is anything Joseph Russo cannot do. The New Milford native is a master of costume and set design, an acclaimed actor, director and playwright. His current direction of Bonnie & Clyde, by Adam Peck, brings a startlingly beautiful and sexy rendition of this play to the stage at TheatreWorks in New Milford.

Many are familiar with the story of Bonnie and Clyde, but the play by Adam Peck focuses on the final days of these infamous outlaws who know their end is near. They are catching their breath, healing their wounds in an abandoned barn somewhere in Louisiana. We are cleverly brought into their era when we open the Playbill which steps "outside the box", providing a brief history of Bonnie & Clyde's world – Prohibition, Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. On stage a newsreel slide show of the time flutters on a sheet suspended on barn beams accompanied by contemporary music that neatly bridges their time in history to ours.

The set itself is a triumph in its authenticity of the 1930's. The barn is equipped with an outdoor pump that actually delivers water for washing up and cleaning dishes. Cans of food that must have been found in the dark, cobwebby corners of an old basement contain beans that are cooked over a small fire. When Clyde Barrow opens a can of peaches and eats them with a spoon, my mouth watered. Bonnie and Clyde dance to a wind up phonograph with a record that has a flip side. The set is so good you can feel how hot it must be outside.

My review is a bit reversed. But I had to share the set-up, the ingenious doings put in place to set the time and mood for the audience before this marvelous play begins to unfold when the actors take the stage.

Marilyn Hart as Bonnie Parker and Adam Stordy as Clyde Barrow perform as though they have been acting opposite each other for years. They epitomize two young people in trouble, comfortable with each other, but also aggravated and annoyed with each other and most palpably afraid because they know they are going to die.

Marilyn Hart captures the three dimensional aspect of Bonnie Parker – hometown girl, sexually frustrated woman and a killer who doesn't hesitate to put a gun in Clyde's face. She snaps from "girl next door" to "finger on the trigger" as easily as she dances to her favorite song. She is married to another man, Roy Thornton, continues to wear his ring and sports a tattoo on her leg with his name and hers intertwined in a heart. When Clyde pesters her about the ring she says "it's the only gold I have". Marilyn takes that simple sentence and makes you say to yourself, "yes, I understand". Bonnie reads to Clyde from the paper about their escapades, and to Clyde's annoyance, reports about crimes they didn't commit.

"We did a bad thing this time" Bonnie sighs reading about a man they shot whose finance wears her wedding dress to his funeral. Marilyn not only gives this line the comedic overtone but evokes the psychotic nature of a woman who is moved by this particular murder because of the tragic romance involved, perhaps seeing a parallel to her own life. Marilyn Hart's shining performance gives us Bonnie Parker as a real person, not a media legend; she graces her with thoughts and concerns we can relate to, and most surprisingly, despite her criminal exploits, Marilyn Hart leaves us caring for Bonnie Parker.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Adam Stordy in the role of Clyde Barrow. He owns the stage like a seasoned veteran despite the fact this is his theatre debut. He portrays Clyde with country boy charm but invests him with an underlying edginess that conveys his anxiety for the future. He is charming with Bonnie, but can easily turn when she pushes him too far. Their repartee is natural and fluid, even their silences are comfortable, yet there is sensuality between them that goes unfulfilled.

Adam Stordy infuses Clyde with a heaviness of heart, a melancholy ache that is never more evident than when he is in the spot light and delivers an aside to the audience. It's brilliantly executed; he suspends the audience with him, in that other reality where death, gruesome death is coming. Adam Stordy as Clyde Barrow can be certain he has touched more than one person with this powerful first performance.

There are two Wizards, Richard Pettibone and Scot Wyshynski, whose sorcery is evident throughout the play not only in what their lighting design makes us believe is going on but in the impeccable timing of those lights complimenting and supporting the words and actionsof the actors. Kudos, gentlemen.

Bonnie & Clyde is performed without intermission. My husband said "that was a fast 90 minutes, I'd like a little more time with them." You will too.

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