NEW YORK (AP) — If you clearly remember the early 1980s, you probably weren't inhaling enough. Helping recapture the wacky side of those tumultuous, uneasy years in America is the lewd, rude and often screamingly funny new play, "Bullet for Adolf."
Raunchy and edgy, the comedy was written by old friends Woody Harrelson and Frankie Hyman, based on an interracial friendship that blossomed during a steamy summer in Houston in 1983. The seemingly improbable, semi-autobiographical plot and colorful characters sprang from true events and unusual people encountered by the pair of youthful construction workers, who became friends and roommates amid a shared interest in philosophy, marijuana, womanizing and drinking, not necessarily in that order.
Harrelson also directed the talented cast of eight in this energetic multimedia mash-up, which is currently performing off-Broadway at New World Stages. With a slapstick feel, there's a mix of pithy zingers and puerile-but-funny comments as the dialogue rushes by. It's peppered with one-liners, vulgar insults and politically incorrect jokes about racism, ethnicity, pedophilia, the Holocaust and even different cultures' uses of placenta.
Racial slurs and blunt language abound, as the story unfolds beneath a cinematic array of projection screens. At interludes, grainy 1980s footage flashes above, recalling the era with clips from news, sports events and popular culture. Pious pronouncements by President Reagan mix with flashes of TV sitcoms, Sean Connery as James Bond, and stills or scenes from other iconic movies.
Two scenes were actually filmed for the play, one in a lively bar and the other in the back of a police car, and are shown on the projections while scenery is changed below.
Representing the authors are Zach, a cheerful, easygoing dude based on Harrelson and imbued with casual charm by Brandon Coffey, with Hyman's slightly older self, Frankie, played with streetwise authenticity by Tyler Jacob Rollinson.
David Coomber is particularly effective as the third roommate, Clint, a delicate, artistic friend of Zach's who's headed to Juilliard acting school in the fall. Coomber milks his character's diva side for all it's worth, and his well-timed slapstick reactions and clever rejoinders provide many memorable laughs and visuals.
Lee Osorio is swaggeringly sleazy as Dago-Czech, a jive-talking, polyester-suited, work-averse man who earnestly wishes he were black. Nick Wyman portrays their successful construction boss, gruffly taciturn Jurgen, who has a thick German accent and a World War II artifact that figures prominently in the mystery that erupts at the end of the first act.
Three attractive women round out the cast in somewhat stereotypical roles that each actress manages to rise above. Marsha Stephanie Blake sinks her teeth into the role of proud, feisty militant Shareeta, while Shamika Cotton is ladylike and foxy as Jackie, Frankie's love interest.
Shannon Garland is appealing as Jurgen's teenage daughter, Batina, the unlikely, squeaky-voiced center of the story as Zach's ex-girlfriend. In a moment of lovesick revenge, she nearly breaks Zach's nose and then says chirpily, "Cracking cartilage vents the spleen." Her hilariously awkward birthday dinner brings all the characters together, the beginning of several farcical encounters.
Even if Frankie's poetic side is left unexplored, and the tale contains more jokes than philosophy or logic, "Bullet For Adolf" is an engaging, high-energy comedy that will surely entertain more than it offends. It may be tasteless at times, but it's never boring.