Mad, Hip, Beat, and Gone A New Review Of A New Play
By Joan Baker and Olin Meadows
Compelling! Entertaining! Original! Thought Provoking!
Mad Beat Hip & Gone, written and directed by Steven Dietz, is an unsentimental journey to a time in the 40’s and 50’s when the voices of writers such as Jack Kerouac were calling to the youth of a new generation. The Beat Generation. The Hip Generation.
The ZachTheatre’s production captures the rhythm of restlessness within the soul of that generation. We are in the backseat of their car as Jon Cook (Rich) and Jacob Trussell (Danny) careen through the night on their wild ride in search of excitement, new places, new faces and self.
There can be no doubt about the talented performances delivered by the entire cast. Babs George shines as Danny’s mother, whose inappropriate interest in her son’s best friend, creates both tension and humor as the coming-of-age tale unfolds. Rick Roemer’s portrayal of Danny’s father provides the all-important link for Danny’s quest to find and better understand who his father was and why he deserted Danny and his mom. Though under-utilized in the role of Danny’s father, Roemer’s portrayal of the different men Danny meets and yearns to call father show his versatility as an actor as he moves effortlessly from one vignette to the next.
Erin Barlow also sparkles as Honey, who struggles to find her own voice and the strength to redirect the path her life will take. Topaz McGarrigle’s sax wraps its haunting notes around the action of the play.
Director and playwright Steven Dietz, has accomplished something that every theatre artist whether actor, director, playwright, or producer sets out to do; he has created a show that starts conversations, opens minds, and provokes thought. After the performance, every conversation in the room was discussing the meaning, symbolism, and conclusion of this groundbreaking show.
As noted earlier Babs George and Rick Roemer do a smashing job. In my humble opinion, these two should be cast in every show. It has been said that Babs George could stand on a bare stage in a gunnysack and recite nursery rhymes and the crowd would love her. Personally I think she can do no wrong. Roemer is no slacker either; he deftly portrays one of the most pivotal roles in the entire cast…the role of everyman. While truthfully Roemer portrays the father of the lead character, he is also a plethora of others.
A tip of the hat to the playwright who brings it all homes in a couple of lines throughout the play. Honey says, “Every man is searching for one thing, to know his father.” Later Danny tells her, “I seek to know everyman so that one man might know me.” This is why Roemer, while having one of the smaller parts, has the biggest responsibility to the message.
The production quality is of course impeccable. What else would you expect from Zach Scott? However, I do feel that some of the scenic elements were too sparse, and the use of the projections at times is overused and seems like an easy way out. On the flip side, however, there is beauty in some of the simplicity of the production, allowing the audience to focus on the message, instead of the pretty sets. Designer Michael Raiford, did a great job in combining the simple and the complex.