It’s difficult to know what to expect upon arrival at The Silent Barn to see Biter (Every Time I Turn Around), an original production from Title-Point, the art space’s resident experimental theatre company. And rightly so – experimental theatre is, after all, meant to be something new, something unpredictable. What you get is exactly what Title:Point promises in the invitation: a “slapstick gore-fest.” I’d also add, “With a lot of bare man-leg and one stinky raw fish.”
The lights go up on the nook of a stage, illuminating Golly (played by Catrin Lloyd-Bollard) and Goon (Ryan William Downey), two characters with faces painted in black and white, like mimes. Dressed in ill-fitting suits, the two quibble with one another until they are interrupted by a loud knock. A Postman unexpectedly arrives wearing a bloodied bandage over one eye and tight short-shorts. He carries a mysterious package in a white box, which he sets on the table before Golly and Goon, and distracts them for a while before his exeunt. With the scantily clad Postman gone, Golly and Goon can finally get to planning a birthday party for a bear. Once the bear arrives, things begin to go awry, as things are wont to do when there’s a bear in the room.
Playwrights Spencer Thomas Campbell and Ryan William Downey strike high notes with Golly and Goon’s scenes in the first half of Biter. The characters are well-written, well-acted and really quite funny. Their fast-paced existential quips are excellently portrayed by Lloyd-Bollard and Downey, who have fantastic timing and comedic chemistry onstage. Some lines, moments of brilliant wordplay peppered throughout the script, remain with me days after seeing the show. My favorite: Golly asks Goon, “What’s a metaphor?” and Goon explains, quite pointedly, “It’s for whatever I say it’s for.” (Remind me to use that in every argument from now on.)
As the play continues and additional characters enter the party scene, the show becomes progressively violent, disjointed and disorienting. Biter is a frenetic show with lots of physical movement and dialogue spoken very loudly. The staging borders on distractingly frantic given the small space the actors have to work with, and many of the characters yell – what feels like – the majority of their lines. It’s hard to tell if the characters’ thoughts or actions thread from one to the next; it’s easy to get lost in the jumble. It’s not as surprising as it should be when a raw, dead fish is flung across the stage and its noxious odor wafts throughout the theatre.
Not for the faintest of hearts, Biter (Every Time I Turn Around) will confuse, entertain, and disgust you. Like me, you might find it difficult to get your bearing but if you do, you’ll have a hell of a time. (The folks behind me laughed nonstop for the better part of the show.) If you’re looking for an evening of some experimental, theatrical fun, make this your top choice for this weekend. There are just three nights left (5/14-5/16 at 8 p.m.) so make sure to get your tickets ASAP! The space is small and seats are extremely limited.
This, everyone, is what a bear at a birthday party looks like.
Is it just me, or does the Postman seem a little sinister?
Audience participation may or may not happen in Biter. (It happens.)
Is that blood?
And then there’s this guy…
Biter is a real trip.
Biter (Every Time I Turn Around)
May 14-May 16 at 8 p.m.
The Silent Barn
603 Bushwick Ave, New York, NY 11206
Get your tickets here.
Produced by Title:Point
Directed by Theresa Buchheister, Joey LePage, and Brian Lady
Written by Spencer Thomas Campbell and Ryan William Downey
Set Design by Claire Wood
Technical Design by Scott Ries
Featuring Catrin Lloyd-Bollard Ryan William Downey J.R. Rose Justin Anselmi Spencer Thomas Campbell E James Ford