Mass murder, method acting
and the minds of young actors
a review by Eric Jackson
According to the Stanislavski Method that dominates the acting on the stages and screens of the English-speaking world, an actor is supposed to draw from the well of personal experiences and emotions to get the attitudes and effects that she or he is to portray. Similes can come into play when the role calls for things outside the actor’s experience, as is usually the case when one plays a depraved criminal.
The hero with a gun story is a genre of unreality in which the bad guys tend to be easy-to-play shallow cutouts for the good guy to vanquish. But Bang Bang You’re Dead has the bad guy as the central character. If anything it would be the victims who are the inconsequential “mushrooms” that pop up and get stepped on. But the victims here are anything but that.
Here we have a dark drama, a play with no hero, stereotypical or otherwise.
The Guild’s production of Bang Bang You’re Dead had a young cast drawn from the metro area’s private high schools — not especially places where gangsters hold sway, and perhaps in some instances venues Americanized culture but probably not the gun worship and certainly not the school shootings that one finds in the United States. Yes, there is plenty of bullying and there are plenty of self-centered kids in schools here, but by and large these kids were acting out scenes from an alien culture.
The cast, led by Juan Pablo Delgado who played the shooter, did it very well. Several of them played multiple roles. Surely that would be a matter of good directing by Levys Mon Calderon.
Also noteworthy about this production are the lighting and video effects, around which the set was designed. It’s a multimedia spectacle and the technical aspects that you see onstage by people whom you don’t see onstage are impressive. Let this be a reminder that the Guild, one of the senior institutions of this country’s English-speaking community, needs the help of a lot of people who do things other than acting.
Can we play junior shrink and discuss what sort of flake Delgado’s character Josh is? Go see the play, and play that game if you are so disposed. But know that mass murderers and serial killers tend to be very different sorts of people, the former people with emotional disorders and deteriorating lives that lead to the usually psychotic snaps at the moment of their crimes, the latter typically spiritually dead psychopaths except for the reptilian brain stem feelings of hunger, sex, death, and physical pain or comfort. The Hollywood cliche is that when people die in great numbers at around the same time by being shot or blown up, that’s an “action drama;” while when people die one by one in separate incidents, often by strangling or stabbing, that’s a “psychological drama.” This one breaks that boring mold, being as it is a psychological play about a mass murderer, a guy who shoots up a school, and his victims.
Don’t go to see Bang Bang You’re Dead for light-hearted entertainment. Don’t take a little kid to see it. You may want to bring along an adolescent. You may want to go just for a glimpse at some of the next generation whom you are likely to find in Panama’s theater scenes of tomorrow, this time doing heavy drama.
Written by William Mastrosimone
Directed and adapted by Levys Mon Calderon
Assistant director Daniela Noriega
Produced by Andres Diaz, Levys Mon Calderon and Gabriela Mornhinweg
Assistant producers Dayana Moreno and Daniela Noriega
Starring Juan Pablo Delgado, Fiona O’Reilly, Nick Molina, Ana Raquel Calzada, Joshua Samuels and Raquel De La Guardia (with Anya Sirker as understudy)
Set design Aylin Medina
Set construction Tito Vallarino
Lighting design Juan De La Guardia
Sound design Levys Mon Calderon
Costumes Gabriela Mornhinweg, with Keita Kushner
Video content Rafael Quezada and Gretel Kahn
Animations Grethel Guardia
Lighting tech Andres Diaz
Sound tech Thomas Kenna
PPT tech Thomas Rowley
Makeup Dayana Moreno
Stage manager Kelly Walsh
Assistant stage manager Gabriela Mornhinweg
Backstage manager Juan Lozada
Stage hands Sabrina Ubben and Anya Sirker
Also on the production, marketing, graphics and photography team Patricia Mora, Elena Nathani and several people listed above doing other tasks
Editor’s note: The journalist is not supposed to be the story, but the pretense that anybody can report anything without having a point of view is one of the lies that has been killing old journalistic conventions and the mainstream media in which they have been celebrated. Everybody has a point of view and it’s best to be candid about these when they might matter to the reader. So as a footnote, this confession:
My late friend Ahmad Rahman spent 23 years of his life as a Black Panther political prisoner doing life with no parole before a concerted campaign convinced a governor to commute his sentence. Shortly after his release the topic of the award-winning movie “The Silence of the Lambs” came up and he told me this: “I have just spent many years living with psychopaths. I don’t find psychopaths the least bit entertaining.” And so it also goes — somewhat — with this play and me. Gun violence? The stuff of the most awful and warping experience in my life. Being bullied? Been there, done that. A high school outcast? I was one of those. So the subject matter of “Bang Bang You’re Dead” is painful in several personal ways. But an arts scene that is entirely about happy thoughts and limited to works that don’t make a person think is the ideal of dull conformists who are painful to be around. It’s infinitely worse should they ever come into positions of cultural power. This play takes a person into uncomfortable nooks and crannies of the mind — even if there are no personal demons like mine to meet there.
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