With a Bang begins with a bang. In fact, several. The first one comes from a pistol a shadowy figure holds to his temple. Successive shots raise the question of how many rounds to the head a suicide attempt can involve. Or was the suicide assisted by another party?
The play is by NOLA project member Pete McElligott and the run at Southern Rep is its premiere. The offbeat, absurdist narrative never swerves closer to mundane reality after the initial confusion. Instead, it spins into mythic realms that are hard to grasp at times.
For instance, two men approach the suicide corpse, and one places his hand on the dead man's skull and revives him with a voodoo-like ritual — or nearly revives him. The dead man is too dead to be revived — although the reviver (Sean Glazebrook), who may be an angel, has resuscitated him many times before. Why all the heavenly, or diabolic, interest in keeping the man alive? So he can complete his book.
The book seems to be of cosmic importance. It must be completed and the task of finishing it falls to his daughter Margaret (Robin Baudier).
Complications follow complications. Dani (Jessica Podewell), Margaret's ninja sister, appears from time to time, brandishing a dagger. A man named Doc (Vatican Lokey) launches into a seemingly interminable monologue. And we learn at the end of Act 1 that the end of the world is an overrated event.
At the beginning of Act 2, we meet John Boy (Alex Lemonier), whose eyes have been gouged out, leaving only bloody sockets. It's worth noting the program lists credits for gore effects, blood effects, gun effects and fight choreography. With a Bang bridges the gap between surrealism and the Normandy landings.
While imaginative, the play is overly long and confusing, although director Aimée Hayes moves it along with all due haste, and the cast is apt and agile. For all its flaws, With a Bang has the sense of something new and untried, and a tip of the hat goes to Southern Rep for taking on an original piece. — Dalt Wonk
With a Bang
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun.; through April 18
Southern Rep, The Shops at Canal Place, third floor, 522-6545; www.southernrep.com