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Op-Ed: Woody Harrelson's Bullet for Adolf is funny compelling theatre Special

By David Silverberg     Apr 23, 2011 in Entertainment
Toronto - Actor Woody Harrelson's new play Bullet for Adolf opened in Toronto recently, and it's a bold comedic story of Harrelson's true friendship with a fellow construction worker in 1980s Houston.
It was one of those friendships Woody Harrelson never forgot. In Houston in 1983, he was working construction with his friend Frankie Hyman and realized how much he grew at the precocious age of 22. Now, decades later, Harrelson reconnected with Hyman and co-wrote Bullet for Adolf, a two-hour play debuting in Toronto and running at Hart House Theatre until May 7.
A semi-autobiographical production, Bullet throws us into Harrelson's arduous life as a construction worker after befriending Frankie, a young black man with his own set of questionable values. The young Harrelson is Zach (Brandon Coffey) is aimless, snarky, smokes joints to relax after a stressful day. What's giving him the most stress is Dago-Czech (Billy Petrovski), a larger-than-life character who is fired from his construction job the same day Zach is hired. Dago loves getting into the faces of everyone. He flaunts his Harlem roots, dropping the N-bomb dangerously.
When Zach invites Frankie to be his roommate (Ronnie Rowe), that's where the comedy begins. Zach's other roommate Clint (David Coomber) flips out when Frankie is introduced, and the tension between the two provides many laughs throughout the night. And something about Clint's physical reactions are hilarious to the point of slapstick.
The sexual tension heightens between Zach and his girlfriend Batina (Vanessa Smythe), but something feels off about their relationship, and it seems the electricity between the two is never believable. Perhaps because Zach acts like such a buffoon in many romantic situations; or was Harrelson saying something about a relationship on the cusp of failure?
To spare you the spoilers, let's just say Bullet's first half ends with a cliffhanger of a mystery that keeps you hooked. Intermission couldn't end early enough. You know it's compelling theatre when you're itching to find out how the characters will resolve their problems, some romantic, some criminal.
The jokes are often presented as one-liners, and they rarely fall flat. Some risky humour invades the dialogue, and sensitive audiences might not appreciate the many Nazi and Holocaust jokes. The oven joke elicited a few "oh man" sighs from the audience at the sold-out show.
For his first play, Harrelson is on target with a tight portrait of an American era often relegated to VHS films and MTV retrospectives. He captures the feel of 1980s U.S. without pandering to pop culture references. Instead, how the character talk and react to each other speaks volumes.
The actors, most of them under the radar in Toronto's theatre scene, do a fantastic job bringing Harrelson's story to life, complete with foul language, pot smoke and gun fights. This is modern theatre that leaves you wanting more, so let's hope Harrelson doesn't busy himself with Hollywood so much so we miss out on other creative ideas borne from his experiences.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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