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Bombs, Babes and Bingo at Mortar Theatre Company | Theater review

The element of chance in Merri Biechler’s new play is more than just a gimmick.
Photograph: Tom McGrath Richard Perez and Stephanie Stroud in Bombs, Babes & Bingo at Mortar Theatre
By Oliver Sava |

Every performance of Bombs, Babes and Bingo is a different show. An unnamed young girl (Megan Tabaque) spins a bingo cage, then pulls out a number indicating the next part of the story. It’s a clever storytelling device that’s more than just a gimmick. The random structure of Merri Biechler’s new play reflects the fragmented memory of her central character, a bomb builder recovering after being caught in an explosion. Dennis (Richard Perez) doesn’t know which memory is going to bombard him next, an experience the actors and audience share.

As Dennis tries to discover the formula for the perfect bomb, he begins to recall key moments from his past: the day he met his wife, Ellen (Stephanie Stroud), the time his daughter Hannah (Erica Cruz Hernandez) created algorithmic hopscotch, the fight that ended his marriage. Whatever the order of the scenes, the character timelines remain the same, and the ensemble’s ability to clearly track the jumps provides cohesion. The added element of chance gives the production the energy of an improv show, and the initial surprise of the bingo number propels each scene.

It’s possible I saw the most ideal order of events, with the hysterical scene of Ellen in clown college coming early in the play. That burst of comic relief softens the audience for the intense relationship drama to follow. Stroud gives a striking performance as she transitions from sad clown to aggressive housewife. The rest of the ensemble is similarly skilled at navigating the story’s unpredictable twists.

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