Adam Peck’s one-act play Bonnie & Clyde attempts to show the human side of the two murdering criminals whose dastardly deeds evolved from headline news stories to a full blown myth. Peck, an Englishman, put his own spin on this notorious American couple who were willing to cut their lives short by leading a life riddled with guns, bank robberies and blood. Perhaps, it’s the English spin on this American story that doesn’t ring quite right.
In the New Milford TheatreWorks production, well directed by Joseph Russo, the seedy side of the couple’s lives seems to vanish against the attractive and cleverly rendered barn setting, although the play is set in 1934 in an abandoned barn. Here, the beams are covered with front page stories of the two outlaws, and the empty barn is a cozy corner for Bonnie and Clyde’s romantic interlude and hiding place.
As it turns out, the barn is their last hiding place before the law catches up with them. Amazingly, 167 bullets really were shot to take out the crime spree couple. Even though the Playbill states that Peck did not glamorize the culprits, the play really does just that. Bonnie is consistently portrayed as a romantic poet, a God-loving and talented woman who dreamed she could have been a famous singer, dancer, or movie star. As for Clyde, he would have liked to have worked on automobiles.
Reportedly, Bonnie really was a smart woman, though a seamstress and a waitress. Clyde had been in and out of prisons for some time before he hooked up with Bonnie. It was reported that he was sexually assaulted repeatedly while in prison, which rendered him a vengeful man determined to strike out against the law and the prison system that ruined him forever.
In the play, Clyde is a soft-spoken and philosophical gentleman. So while the direction and the acting are superior in this production, the play just doesn’t quite cut it. For starters there’s no conflict; the audience already knows the ending, so there’s no rising action or anticipation.
Marilyn Hart as Bonnie Parker is graceful and lovely. Hart has that spark in her eye that can catch the audience off guard when she turns from playful to hurtful. As for Adam Stordy, who plays Clyde Barrow, he has definitely turned the crook into a physically fit and philosophical Adonis-type character.
What is most bothersome about the production/play is the video segment that starts the show. Depictions of the depression, men out of work and standing in bread lines, eating at soup kitchens, prohibition, and overall hard times seem to point to the reason for Bonnie and Clyde becoming robbers. Historic background is one thing, but that it leads into the story of two outlaws is another.
There’s a lot of dialogue and little action, although it was great watching the two using an onstage working water pump to get their water. The set was designed by the the director with Glenn R. Couture designing the scenic decoupage. Russo and Tom Libonate designed the sound, and Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski designed the lighting. The production is a good-looking, well acted performance. The play is not quite the thing.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association, and covers art and culture in a blog for CBS and CBS-CT. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]