Down Home Magic

If only life were more like a music video, where success is amplified to the max. For the Sturgess family, things couldn't be more different. One son lives in a car propped up on blocks, the other has mental breakdowns that are cured only by liquor, and Dad has Social Services breathing down his neck. Their sole escape: a steady supply of heavy metal and punk music. In fact, in ...and we all wore leather pants the only thing more magical than rock 'n' roll is magic itself. The plot is peppered with mystical events, ranging from a mysterious visitor plucked from the sky to an immaculate conception.

Robert Attenweiler's imaginative script is set in a rather unimaginative place: Ashtabula, Ohio (read: Anytown, USA). The contrast makes for poignant and comical moments, which the talented cast aptly captures. The first three scenes contain some fabulous repartee that is aided by quick dialogue and a snappy pace set by director John Patrick Hayden.

Most at home among the witticisms is Joe Stipek. As Krank, the loner, car-dwelling son, he has a perfect deadpan tone that makes even the wildest notions sound inappropriately (and hilariously) matter-of-fact. When his date expresses concerns over his makeshift hot plate in the backseat, he explains, "No, it's fine. People tell ya shouldn't have fires inside a' cars, but they mean when you don't think n' crack a window." His complete sincerity makes dangerous ignorance seem adorable.

As his brother, Danny Bruckert's Jagger is Krank's boisterous and self-assured foil. He struts around the stage, mostly without pants, and revels in the play's more absurd moments. For poor Jagger, things are pretty absurd: he may or may not be a mechanic, and he may or may not be the former star of a heavy metal group. While he keeps having strange and increasingly aggressive flashbacks–a guitar solo here, a wild motorcycle ride there–his wife, Mary (Becky Benhayon), remains determined to stamp them out with alcohol. As a result, Jagger has no idea who he is, and Bruckert captures his confusion and mounting frustration well.

Thanks in part to an inexplicable combination of a meteor shower and an earthquake, the characters' problems and innermost needs and fears are hurtled to the surface. However, the play stumbles a little when everyone collides in the family den. While the shorter, two-actor scenes earlier in the play offer some real zingers, the lines don't have the same bite when the entire ensemble shares the stage.

The appearance of a mysterious visitor, who speaks like a prophet and dresses like a jogger, also trips up the story slightly. Here, the simple lyricism of magic layered over the mundane is replaced with lengthy speeches that tip almost too far in favor of the former.

But when the play maintains this balance, it's a delight. Take, for instance, the show's depiction of the so-called meteor shower. Jagger and Mary have just brought out some glow-sticks (they couldn't find a flashlight) to look for their missing child when a loud rumble and flickering lights overtake the stage. As the characters stumble through the chaos, Mary goes to the door at the back and struggles to hold herself up with the frame. Her shaking hands wave the stick up and down until its glow flashes like green lightning.

Despite its modest technology, the clever production team creates a dazzling special effect. Now here's a group that knows more than a few things about crafting magical scenes from ordinary ingredients.

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