[Lame reference to a bomb "exploding"]
KC Fringe Festival
Walking into the Unicorn Theater on Monday, the 25th to see Caldwell's Bomb, the audience sees the setup of a home where beer bottles, clothes, and trash are strewn about - giving the viewers a pretty good understanding of what kinds of characters were about to be introduced. And that expectation was spot-on. Actually, the entire production was that clear and understandable. It's always enjoyable to witness the sync that needs to happen between the director (Herman Johansen), the playwright (Bill Rogers), and the actors for a great play to be produced. And that's what Caldwell's Bomb was: a great play.
From a technical stand-point, the production was adequate. Costumes worked for the most part, but it was hard to believe that Earl and Jimbo were from the same close-knit group. That said, though, their quality of clothing was not so far removed from each other that it was not believable that they were not from the same town at least. The set and props worked just fine and dandy, but there were a couple of spots onstage where the lighting made the actors look like they had either purple-dyed or bloody hair.
A huge part of the Fringe is giving new artists, playwrights, choreographers, and anybody looking for a little theatrical experimentation a chance to strut their stuff in the heart of Kansas City. This particular play should make KC very proud: halfway through, the audience gets hit in the face with just how extremely relevant the subject of this play is (and what a refreshing slap in the face it is): religion, politics, the violence over both of these, and the dangerous connection between them. The writing is so appropriate, ("Hell's bells!"), that it feels like the play is being presented right in the heart of southwest Missouri - where Branson is a romantic vacation idea and beer seems to run through the bloodstream of the general public. This Rogers' play has such believable and well-written characters in it, and it was necessary to get talented actors to do justice the script justice.
The play features Scott Cordes as Earl, Richard Alan Nichols and Jimbo, Matthew Melson as Caldwell, and Cheryl Weaver as Deena. It is a strong cast, matching actor to character rather perfectly, with only a few weak moments. Cordes, whether accidentally or intentionally, steals the entire show. Spectators often found themselves watching Cordes to see what clever thing he would do next instead of paying attention to the 2-minute conversation taking place elsewhere in the room. This was probably due to the mere interest of the audience, though, being that Cordes did, in fact, give his fellow actors plenty to work with and didn't just try to hog all the attention. Nichols worked well as the extremist when he was not struggling with certain lines near the last quarter of the show: an audible "Sorry" and the burying of his face in his hands red-flagged the only major mess-up. However, Cordes covered as best he could - even managing to get a laugh in the process. Melson started o!
ut weak as the internalized and developmentally-delayed (as Earl would have anyone believe) Caldwell, but came into his own power later in the game, especially during and after his first fight with Earl and Jimbo. Weaver was a refreshing and powerful performer - an actress who understands the lines, the blocking, and her relationship with the other characters so well, that her very-natural presence onstage is impossible to doubt. Overall, the relationships between the characters were all clear, believable, and entertaining - a nice team effort from Rogers, Johansen, and his cast.
This play is just worth it. Spectators should hop in the car, drive out to the Unicorn Main Stage, and have fun playing with Caldwell's Bomb.