nytheatre.com review by Eric Winick
American Mouth, a new musical
play by Raymond Bokhour, vents some serious spleen. In it, a young
father, fed up with the state of the world, decides to detonate a
shopping mall with a pipe bomb, and chooses to announce his attentions
on a local radio show hosted by an obnoxious shock jock called "The
Mouth." Juxtaposed with the scenes between these two disaffected figures
are a series of songs spoofing the distinctly American predilection for
sex and violence, and reports from newscasters who couldn’t care less
about the death tolls they’re pronouncing or the weather they’re
August 15, 2003
It’s a curious hybrid: pitch-black social commentary meets sketch comedy cabaret. The central premise is intriguing, if not entirely original (Eric Bogosian covered this ground with more success in Talk Radio), and by itself would make for a compelling drama about one man’s gaining of a conscience at the hands of a disgruntled terrorist. Sadly, any impact is blunted by the playwright’s decision to skewer not just one social ill, but several, from prescription drug commercials to political advertising to (most egregiously) women in the 70s who just wanna get "Knocked Up."
While Bokhour would seem the primary culprit, director Davis McCallum’s decision to mix presentational styles doesn’t help matters, making for a wildly inconsistent evening. While the main action involving The Mouth (Julian Fleisher) takes place entirely at a console, the scenes involving the station’s other personalities are delivered directly to the audience, begging the question: to whom are these characters speaking? It’s wise to open things up, to play out instead of confining scenes to a single room (as in Talk Radio); unfortunately, the songs are so detached from the main action, the evening takes on the feel of two different shows unsuccessfully grafted onto one another.
Still, there is talent on display here. McCallum elicits a convincing performance from Fleisher, and Kristen Lee Kelly as one of the show’s two singer/dancers throws herself into the fray with reckless abandon. Best of all may be the show’s omnipresent sound design, the effort of one Dave Bokhour, which fills the Kraine’s airspace with an array of promos, voiceovers, stings, and assorted radio-related bombast. It’s a shame, then, that Mouth is determined to take on so many issues at once. Had playwright Bokhour focused his efforts on a single subject, and a single relationship, he might have hit the jackpot.