Last night’s program was exactly the prescription needed to heal what’s been ailing this Spoleto Buzz blogger in the past eight days. Faustus and L’ile de Merlin both tousled festival audiences’ hair in their ways, but so far Spoleto 07’s been absent any real, knock-your-hat off-and-lick-you-up-and-down surprises. We got it Thursday evening with the Foundry Theatre’s thoughtful, incisive, riotous Major Bang: or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dirty Bomb.
Actors Steve Cuiffo and Maggie Hoffman delivered an 80-minute-long shock to the system that furrowed brows and provoked belly laughs in equal proportion, but avoided predictability throughout with the effortless savvy of a street huckster dodging the law. Bang’s meta-narrative – replete with stage magic and illusion and self-referential asides – dipped in and out of an allegedly true story about a rebellious tween Boy Scout who pilfered radioactive pellets from the food irradiation plant where his father works in order to build a breeder reactor in his room. Cuiffo and Hoffman played a grab bag of characters (including a wicked Lenny Bruce standup impression), and the last time I saw that much first-rate magic on the Emmett Robinson stage, it was being performed by Ricky Jay as directed by David Mamet in the 2000 festival for Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants.
Podcast #9, therefore, is a conversation with Steve Cuiffo and Foundry Theatre founder and Bang co-creator Melanie Joseph. For the best full review of Major Bang you’ll read at this festival, I refer you to Nick Smith’s breakdown for the City Paper. Short version: get a ticket to this play.