The Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts’ “Ascension Day” and “Bang Bang You’re Dead” are two small-scaled one-acts, mediocre in writing and direction, that want to make the world a better place.
They’re full of obvious, moral lessons that I find depressing. They make me feel I’m not a good enough person to appreciate their holiness. Against all odds, though, “Bang” contains one riveting performance that makes this evening a peg above average.
The latter script, by William (“Extremities”) Mastrosimone, has been rewritten post-Columbine. It tries to get inside the head of Josh, an ostracized high-school student turned killer.
The play includes a lot of dramatic hocus-pocus — such as a Greek chorus of victims who torment their murderer — but it doesn’t really tell us much about its subject. We easily get that Josh is lonely and misunderstood, but all his motivations feel generic. The author wants so badly for Josh to represent all misunderstoods, that he fails to make him a specific character.
John Morris is at his worst when he directs emotion-laden stories. He lays on the pathos so relentlessly that you keep wishing the characters would get over themselves and move on.
Drew Lynch as Josh is at times vocally monotonous, and who can blame him with such a repetitious role. But he manages to create a character that goes beyond the script’s words. When Lynch’s Josh gets hurt or angry or violent, you can feel the considerable pain that’s provoking his actions. Lynch is so authentic and communicative that it makes you regret that Mastrosimone has robbed him of the opportunity to go deeper into Josh’s soul.
Timothy Mason’s “Ascension Day” is easier to take because it doesn’t hit you over the head with obviousness.
Teenagers at a Bible camp try to deal with religion, parents, loyalty and raging hormones.
Dane Madsen directs in an awkward, presentational way, with the actors frequently looking at the audience during their big moments.
The cast members show promise. They exhibit skilled naturalism. At times the naturalism feels faked, but it at least shows the students are headed in the right direction. Dakota Rakes is particularly believable as the unhappy Wesley, who’s desperate to run away.
These productions may be just what teenagers need to see. Mastrosimone, for example, has told the press his play has saved a lot of lives. If that’s so, then he and the likes of Mason are to be congratulated. But sainthood doesn’t a playwright make.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: “Ascension Day” and “Bang Bang You’re Dead”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Where: Las Vegas Academy Black Box, 10th Street and Lewis Avenue
Tickets: $10 (800-585-3737)