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    The Bomb

    The blast is yet to come

    Energetic, imaginative and challenging, "The Bomb" connects the Sept. 11 tragedy to wartime horrors of the last 100 years in an effort to understand the human toll of manmade terror.


    (Originally reviewed at Clemente Soto Velez Theater in February 2002.)

    I still remember the one thought that brought me a thousand moments of fleeting but real terror as a Nixon/Brezhnev-era youngster — that if the Russians launched their missiles, there would be an interval of minutes or hours in which I would be playing happily without any idea that I was already a dead boy. The threat of nuclear annihilation wasn't what haunted me, because a threat implies its own opposite, that the disaster is being held back. It was that gap — the minutes already rendered pointless between the pushing of the button and the formality of my actual incineration. And every minute of life took place under this cloud of pointlessness — my continued existence was only proof that the button hadn't been pushed a few hours before, not that the bombs weren't on the way.

    Company: International WOW Company.
    Directed by: Josh Fox.
    Cast: Sophie Amieva, Robert Barcia, Vanessa Burke, Drae Campbell, Maha Chelahoui, Iesha Harrington, Erika Hildebrant, Gina Hirsch, Ikuko Ikari, Ravi Jain, Peter Lettre, J.P. Lopez, Adam Matta, Patrick McCaffrey, Alanna Medlock, Nurit Monacelli, Aya Ogawa, Will O'Hare, Liz Pounsett, Jason Quarles, Peter Rodriguez, Bob Saietta, Magin Schantz, Savannah Shange, Caroline Sharman, Jessica Travis, Aaron Mostkoff Unger, Sarah Vidal, Rachel Vidal, Deborah Wallace..

    Related links: Official site
    Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center
    107 Suffolk St. north of Delancey
    May 24 - July 14, 2002

    Today, shocking events like the Sept. 11 attacks are followed so inevitably by announcements that we've "lost our innocence" that we forget how little innocence we ever had, how all of us over, oh, 25 grew up in a steady state of existential panic. Playwright Josh Fox (who also created last year's "Hyperreal America") wants to remind us of that.

    "The Bomb" is a long, challenging, imagistic epic that links World War II, the atomic bomb and the World Trade Center attack. Hurling scenes relentlessly at the audience, from comedy to horror to pure visual spectacle, it has its hits and misses but often challenges us to shake off our complacency about living in the world as if it we've finally converted it into one big, safe, climate-controlled shopping mall. Don't forget, the play seems to say, that the world is capable of mass killing almost beyond comprehension, and we helped to make it that way.

    Hurling scenes relentlessly at the audience, from comedy to horror to pure visual spectacle, the play challenges us to shake off our complacency about living in the world as if we've converted it into one big, safe, climate-controlled shopping mall.  

    If there's one moment that sets the stage for this idea, it's a scene of the increasingly unstable Robert Oppenheimer (Aya Ogawa), father of the A-bomb, who remembers reading an ironic story in the paper:

    "It was about a Latin-American patriotic terrorist who sent a bomb-letter to the U.S. consulate in order to protest against America interfering into the local politics of his country. Being a conscientious citizen, he wrote on the envelope his return address. However, he did not put enough stamps on the package and the post returned the letter to him. Forgetting what he had put inside it, he opened it up and blew himself to death."

    It's no wonder that this story might have fascinated Oppenheimer, the creator of a letter bomb that we sent out 57 years ago and that could be returned to us momentarily.

    What's most memorable about "The Bomb" is not necessarily the words but the images, each created with spectacular boldness, theatrical imagination and energy by the cast of more than 30. Refugees tromp resignedly down a road. Prisoners are stripped and shot with industrial efficiency. Souls take flight above the litter of corpses after a nuclear strike. Survivors weep. Following these, we see an ash-covered office worker falling perpetually from the World Trade Center. Like all of us, he's trying to figure out what's just happened.

    The most noticeable emotion among New Yorkers in the days after Sept. 11, I think, was confusion. We have no rituals prepared for the sudden annihilation of thousands of people, and New Yorkers spent weeks dazedly asking, "How could this happen?" and "What can we do?" There was never a clear answer.

    "The Bomb" doesn't necessarily have an answer to these questions, but it does have a perspective — that the world has just finished a century of massive brutality in which people have known what it is to live under daily fear and destruction, to both suffer under it and survive in spite of it, and Sept. 11 was one small taste of that kind of life. See it, feel it, try to comprehend it. There could always be more on the way.

    FEBRUARY 6, 2002

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