Jim Tierney's new play Banshee of Bainbridge is a disturbing play about racial tensions in the 1980s Bronx, as seen through the eyes of a confused and naive Irish-American man abandoned in a world changing too quickly for him.
Half Forrest Gump, half Taxi Driver, the play has us follow the feeble-minded Mij (Michael Wolfe), who is trying to cope on his own after the death of his beloved mother- he's in his 30s, a virgin, never had a full-time job... When a beautiful Puerto Rican cashier (Shelly Molad) turns him down for a date, he develops a grudge against her boyfriend Carlos (Ivan Goris), which then, thanks to tutoring-in-life from Sal (Ralph McCain), his partner in his new job of late-night sanitation, begins to turn into outright xenophobia, beginning a tragically ineffectual crusade against all the elements that he thinks are ruining his beloved Bainbridge Avenue (i.e. Puerto Ricans). And along the way, a drunken Mij sees visions of a banshee. The play is unflinching and painful in its examination of the tragedy of neophobia and racism. It's a difficult play to watch at times, as Mij makes bad decision after bad decision. Anyone for whom racial epithets are triggering might also want to skip this one.
Wolfe's bravura performance anchors the play solidly- with a nigh-constant marathon stream-of-consciousness narrative, it's almost a one-man-show that happens to have six other actors in it to bring the stories to life. His Mij is simultaneously appealing and appalling. The other performers acquit themselves well, the standouts being Molad and McCain.
Diánna Martin's subtle and potent direction uses a minimal set to evoke everything from seedy bars to a moving garbage truck, and pulls some fantastic performances from her actors.
The play is a bit over-long, with Mij's relentless stupidity becoming a bit tiresome as people try to help him and he keeps fucking himself and others over. But Wolfe's disturbingly perfect performance keeps it interesting, and the play is still powerful in its way.
Banshee of Bainbridge
Part of the New York International Fringe Festival
Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette, 3rd Floor
-Saturday August 21st at 12 pm
-Sunday August 22nd at 6:30 pm
-Friday August 27th at 3:45 pm
For more information, visit http://www.bansheeofbainbridge.com or http://www.fringenyc.org.