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a World Premiere
by Marco Ramirez

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 3930

SHOWING : January 13, 2011 - February 12, 2011



Former members of the heavy metal band Broadsword reunite for a funeral. Richie, the band's former guitarist, has recently been declared dead after having been missing for six months. Tensions mount with the arrival of Richie's brother Tony, a would-be rock star, who abandoned the band for a brush with fame and fortune. A mysterious stranger arrives, spinning an outrageous story that just might hold the clue to Richie's disappearance. Will friendships be tested? Will the band rock on? Will there be a head-banging twist? Find out in this devilishly entertaining new play with a wry sense of humor and ass-kicking rock-and-roll.

Director Freddie Ashley
Prop Master Courtney Greever
Costume Designer Ashley Holmes Reeves
Composer J.C. Long
Lighing and Sound Designer Joseph P. Monaghan III
Scenic Designer Jon Nooner
Vic Dolph Amick
Tony Bryan Brendle
Dr. Thorne Rial Ellsworth
Man in White Chris Kayser
Becca Stacy Melich
Nicky Justin Welborn
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Air Guitar
by Dedalus
Friday, February 4, 2011
It starts out like a song. We enter the house to see a basement set, gnarled beams competing with pink insulation to smother the detritus of a life. Immaculately cared-for accoutrements of a long-past heavy metal band are scattered throughout.

As the play starts, a man in a white suit (Chris Kayser) enters and talks to an unseen musician, luring him away from his band with the promise of fame and riches and these-other-guys-are-all-losers reassurances.

Then he leaves and the lights come up. We hear the hum of a ramped up amplifier with no music on tap – it is the “sound of potential sound” as one character puts it. A man enters and turns it off. He is joined by another. They have little to say to each other and spend some quality time not saying it. We soon learn they are Vic (Dolph Amick) and Nicky (Justin Welborn), former members of a heavy band (“Broadsword”) whose charismatic leader Richie is enjoying a post-disappearance memorial service.

As the play continues, they are joined by Becca, a wise-beyond-her-role groupie (Stacy Melich), Tony, the member of the band whose departure precipitated its demise (Bryan Brendle), and Dr. Thorne, a pompous and pedantic musicologist (Rial Ellsworth). Faster than you can say “We’ve seen this plot before,” they’re talking about making deals with the devil, finding “the notes between the notes,” and pontificating about mystical idiocy that gives music supernatural properties far more boring than its already intrinsically magical nature.

Which is a shame, because I really loved the set up and execution of this scenario. Mr. Amick and Mr. Welborn are opposite and alike – both longing for the “glory days” of Broadsword’s heyday, both somewhat disappointed with the grace notes life has denied them. For Vic, though, life as a mechanic has not been too bad or even too unexpected. Yes, he misses the band, but he has also achieved a marginal truce with the way his life has come out. Nicky, on the other hand, is crumpled ball of resentment and anger. Living in a van and working behind a bar, he KNOWS he could have won the brass ring if the bastards of the world weren’t conspiring to kick him off the carousel.

This is as well-written, as beautifully performed a scene of pre-middle-age angst as I’ve ever seen. The jokes are rueful, almost bitter, and the shared memories fill each character with a glow their current lives can’t hope to match. Even when the prodigal Tony returns, his LA career hasn’t been as wonderful as he expected, his presumed brass ring ending up not a little tarnished and rusty.

Still, when the opportunity comes up to put down the disappointments and pick up the guitars and drumsticks, the moment could have been sublime, the triumph of pipe dreams over banal day-to-day-ism. The wayward plot even layers on a certain risk in their playing again, a chance that re-playing Richie’s “ultimate song” could lead to their own “ultimate fate.” They are risking more than the end of their dream’s hiatus, they are risking their very lives. It SHOULD have been a cathartic coda, a howl to the universe to stand back and marvel. Instead, it was like an air guitar solo with the sound turned down.

And, it was all because of playwright Marco Ramirez desire to layer on a pseudo-satanic story, a “deal-with-the-devil” B-movie plot that drains the play of its drive, of its humanity, and, ultimately, of its appeal. I can’t blame Mr. Ellsworth’s performance of the enigmatic Dr. Thorne. In fact, he skillfully makes the most ludicrous lines sound almost plausible, gives the character an tongue-in-cheek loopiness reminiscent of those “guy-who-explains-it-all” scientist characters we’ve all come to know and love (think the psychiatrist at the end of “Psycho”).

But the idea is tired and clichéd. A heavy metal band with a “dark side?” A musician making a deal with the devil? These are ideas that are done to death, and there is nothing new here to give any freshness to them.

Still, I can’t help but give the play a recommendation, if only for the performances, the direction, the design, and the set-up. Mr. Welborn, in particular, gives a brilliantly dynamic and memorable performance. This is a play I wanted desperately to like.

But, in the final analysis, its over-reliance on the supernatural was a tune that grated in my ear, that made me want to put my own air guitar back into its unseen case and not even hum along.

-- Brad Rudy (



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