Bombs in Your Mouth
Two siblings mourning their jerk of a dad are cause for hilarity rather than grief
Reviewed by Hannah Kenah, Fri., March 20, 2009
Bombs in Your Mouth
Hyde Park Theatre, through March 28
Running time: 1 hr, 20 min
When you enter Hyde Park Theatre to see the provocatively titled Bombs in Your Mouth, the first thing to notice is the meticulous set. From the stains in the carpet to the Photoshopped family portraits on the wall, Mark Pickell has created a crapass apartment right inside the theatre. The closer you look, the more detail there is to find in this monochromatic and dingy living arrangement. A potluck-esque collection of food is gathering on the kitchen counter. You wonder what sort of event is about to take place. That's when Ken Webster arrives to deliver the curtain speech. But he seems upset. After a dejected request to turn off cell phones, he says, "Danny and Lily would like to say a few words." Beckoning you to follow him, he leaves the theatre.
Outside, we encounter Danny and Lily, dressed in black clothes, standing solemnly on a street corner. Lily is holding a Maxwell coffee can. It holds her father's ashes. Danny and Lily are half-siblings whose crazy father has just died, leaving his memoir/will scrawled on a roll of toilet paper. Lily is pissed at how literally Danny took the toilet-paper will. Danny is pissed at Lily for abandoning the family for the past six years. From the get-go, this play hits you with hilarity where there could be grief. Their botched attempts to "say a few words" result in anecdotes about bodily functions. So begins the tale of how a crazy, cruel father managed to fuck up his children's lives.
Bombs in Your Mouth is strongest in its situation and characters. When Danny and Lily return to the apartment, they settle in for a battle of half-wits. There is beer chugging and arm wrestling and door breaking and toilet-roll reading. At one point, they get hungry and eat spaghetti – with spoons – because the crazy father didn't like forks. Playwright Corey Patrick leverages words excellently, using a minimum number to maximum effect. Some of the best scenes have next to no dialogue. There is a sufficient plot overriding all of this, having to do with a burned house and job loss and inheritance, but the dynamic between the brother and sister is so engaging, the storyline becomes secondary.
Ken Webster's direction realizes the full potential of this script. It starts strong and stays strong, thanks in great part to the performances of Joey Hood and Liz Fisher. Hood has a magnetic presence and preternatural calm. He's one of those awesome actors who doesn't feel the need to be busy on stage. He can simply sit and stare, and his haggard eyes are enough to keep you engaged. You believe this is a guy who has been living in caretaker hell for years. Fisher isn't as comfortable as Hood; the mechanics of her performance are more evident. But she handles the language excellently, delivering lines such as "Come on, please! Have a fucking arm wrestle with me. Dad just died." with aplomb. And in the end, Fisher has the stealing scene. Eating spaghetti with a spoon, her antics are so sharp, it becomes a lazzo one could watch indefinitely.
Bombs in Your Mouth is a great illustration of family. Neither sibling could escape their asshole father, and they can't escape each other. What makes this fun and not horribly depressing is they don't really want to escape each other. Essentially, this play is an inventive and humorous take on an awful situation. At one point, Lily voices the scariest question regarding their father's dementia: "Am I going to end up like this?" Danny and Lily, trapped in a dead-end house in a dead-end town, have no idea how to put the next foot forward, so they resort to doing what they do best: One, two, three, chug!