“This is the worst play that I’ve ever seen,” said a lady in front of me at Bullet for Adolf as she rose to leave at intermission. I can’t say the same, but then again, I’ve seen an awful lot of plays. And few, it’s true, have been quite so poorly wrought as Woody Harrelson and Frankie Hyman’s vacuous quasicomedy. Feverish attempts to hook the audience with ’80s nostalgia—video montages play on giant screens between each scene in Harrelson’s staging, and the squandered cast bounces to “Maniac” at the curtain call—can’t hide the show’s sickly thuds at every turn.
Harrelson and Hyman became pals in real life while doing construction in Houston in 1983. Brandon Coffey and Tyler Jacob Rollinson, respectively, portray the authors’ casually boorish stand-ins, Zach and Frankie, who are squashed into silly antics involving a stolen World War II pistol, as well as threadbare clichés, recycled jokes and anachronistic dialogue. Shamika Cotton plays Jackie, a supposedly smart woman who falls for Frankie, presumably because she is a woman and that’s what women do in such stories. (The authors appear so confident of their own likability that they feel no need to offer evidence of it.) Zach and Frankie’s roommate (David Coomber, working like crazy) is a nervous Nellie whose closeted gayness is telegraphed by an obsession with Judy Garland and bursts of manic, high-pitched laughter; their German boss (Nick Wyman, poor fellow) says things like, “Hitler might not be a friend to you, but he was a friend to the German people.” But it’s okay! He’s just a harmless old Nazi papa, and Jackie, who is black, says by the end that she “might have misread” him. The next time you shake your fist at a review of mine, dear reader, remember this bullet I’ve taken for you.—Adam Feldman
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