by Nita Congress · August 20, 2015
This is what good theater does: arrests you, engages with you, holds you tight and fast and hard, and then releases you dazed, blinking, and gasping. Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart is good theater.
Playwright Robert Wray, actors Mariah Johnson, Rodney Umble, and Robert Ryland, and director Marty Moore have created a mesmerizing, haunting, and unrelenting production. The play combines words, music, life, death, love, hate, the blues, and punk in a seamless whole—or is it hole?
Aspiring bluesman Dugan McBane meets and loves punk rock princess and crossword aficionado Anya Magnifico. What their union unleashes is the subject of the play, as we move back and forth through time, led alternately by Anya and Dugan, circling around and around the abyss:
“Where can I go when you’ve got the keys to every place imaginable?” asks Dugan.
And later, Anya, “85 down: Anguish, as in Medea. 84 down: Anguish as in Michelangelo. 82 down: Anguish…19 down: At the intersection of past and present.”
The play’s title contains a play on words, with a bullet standing in for a ballad. We are shown, so painfully, so repeatedly, what these two mean—meant—to each other, how interchangeable the bullets and the ballads have become.
One more thing good theater does: it brings understanding, showing us the possibilities of words and life and connection. I’ve never known a bluesman, but I know Dugan; I’m no punk crossword fiend, but I get Anya. Good theater bridges the gaps, elucidating, enlightening, enriching, energizing.